On 18 November 2023, the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) along with the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India, in Bengaluru organised the, “Dialogue 2023: Expanding Science and Technology Horizons”. The summit was focused on discussing the importance of science and technology for societal benefits and addressing global challenges plaguing human development, like climate change. They also addressed the ethical issues concerning disruptive technologies like AI, the importance of international collaborations in science and technology, and the need to value the diversity of knowledge systems.
“As India’s pre-eminent science institute, IISc has played a notable role in knowledge support to the government, in national S&T missions, and in instituting policies and programmes,' remarked Prof G Rangarajan, Director, IISc during his welcome address.
He also talked about programmes in which IISc had a significant role, like the Indian Science Technology and Engineering facilities Map (I-STEM), the Bengaluru S&T (BeST) cluster, the India Urban Data Exchange (IUDX) platform, AI and Robotics Technology Park (ARTPARK) and efforts to create high-quality health datasets along with the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR).
Prof Ajay Kumar Sood, Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India and National Science Chair Professor at the Department of Physics, IISc delivered the keynote address at the summit. He talked about the tremendous potential of upcoming technologies like quantum computing and the importance of ethical values and sustainability when we adopt these technologies.
“India has advanced significantly on its developmental goals. Shaping technology futures involves not only technology development but also their adoption in various sectors,” said Prof. Sood, talking about the importance of technology and innovation and the need for these to move from labs to real world problem solving.
This was followed by a session on the ethical challenges and principles related to disruptive technologies like AI. It stressed on the need for regulation of such technologies. Next, a special address by Mr Abhishek Singh, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) delivered a special address in which he talked about India's digital growth. A subsequent panel discussion centred on improving global technology competitiveness and how to balance national priorities and international cooperation in technology development.
The second part of the summit started with a session on “Science, Technology and Society”, during which the speakers emphasised the need to go beyond the classical view that ignored large parts of our traditional knowledge, and to recognise the value of local knowledge systems. An interesting point during the discussion was about acknowledging women's contribution as creators and holders of knowledge from a historical perspective.
The last session of the summit was about the “Public Perception of Science”, chaired by Prof Shubha Tole from Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai.
“It is critical that the public perceives science as an important and valuable enterprise,” remarked Prof. Tole.
She also suggested ways to improve science outreach at different institutions while emphasising that scientists should think beyond outreach and engage people about the process and journey of science.
Editor's Note: This story was slightly edited for some typos. The error is regretted.