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If India wants Laureates, give students opportunities and freedom, say Nobel Laureates

  • Photo: Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Spirit of inquiry and curiosity are traditions in India,  country that has a history of nurturing science, said Hon’ble President Shri Ram Nath Kovind at a seminar organised as a part of the second edition of Nobel Prize Series, India, at the Rashtrapati Bhavan here.

The Nobel Prize Series India 2018, under the theme ‘Science Impacts Life’, concluded at the Rashtrapati Bhavan after day-long deliberations with academicians, bureaucrats, industrialists and four Nobel Laureates expressing their views on diverse issues from science communication to quality faculty, and in general, focusing on what ails the education system in the country.

The Nobel Laureates, Prof. Richard J. Roberts (Physiology or Medicine), Prof. Serge Haroche (Physics), Prof. Christiane Nusslein-Volhard (Physiology or Medicine) and Prof. Tomas Lindahl (Chemistry), said that India had great potential, but needed to spend more on education and science. They opined that the percentage of GDP invested on science was far too low and needed to go up if India, with a talented pool of students, wanted to produce quality research.

The Hon'ble President graced ‘Ek Pradarshini 2018 - The Best of Indian Science’ exhibits at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. The exhibition was curated by the Department of Biotechnology as part of the Nobel Prize Series - India 2018.

Organised jointly by the Nobel Media AB, Sweden and the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology, the Nobel Prize Series India builds upon the ongoing discourse on the need for restructuring science education and research in India. The Nobel Prize Series aims to spread knowledge about the science for which the Nobel Prize were awarded and shares the inspirational stories of the Nobel Laureates with global audience. The 2018 Series started in Goa on February 1.

Inaugurating the national seminar on ‘Science Impacts Life’, President Kovind said that in the 70 years since independence, belief in science has shaped the Indian society. “From agriculture to harnessing the energy of the atom, from vaccine innovation to advances in space technology, science has helped us build our nation – brick by brick or molecule by molecule”, he said. He also added that while it takes great skill to lead a technically capable research team of 15 or 20 people, it takes greater skill to communicate with such a team of qualified scientists. It takes related, but different capacities, to lead an institution of a few thousands. And it takes great patience for our learned scientists to explain the intricacies of science and technology to ordinary people. And yet, our scientists have to do this for the benefit of society. By communicating science, you will further the cause of science, he said.

The event was also attended by the Hon’ble Minister of Science and Technology, Earth Sciences, Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Dr. Harsh Vardhan said that science not only impacts life, but can solve problems. There was a need for scientists to go beyond achieving personal glory and think how their research can solve unresolved problems. Speaking on the occasion, Hon’ble Minister for HRD, Shri Prakash Javadekar said science has brought about huge change in our lives.

Speaking on the occasion, Nobel Laureate Prof. Serge Haroche said it was a challenge to bring as many people to higher education as possible. “We need trained teachers to train teachers”, he said. Pointing out that the investment on science is low in India, he added that it is important that teachers are paid on par with other jobs in the country.

Prof. Juleen R. Zierath, member of the Nobel Committee, emphasized that breakthroughs came from people being challenged, and stressed the importance of infrastructure for science.  Putting man on the moon meant raising the bar on interest in Science, she said, adding that we need to celebrate grassroot scientific heroes and communicate science better.

Nobel Laureate Prof. Richard Roberts said the ability to communicate science to people was important and that scientists should learn how to communicate effectively. “Want more Indian Nobel Laureates? Give them opportunities”, he said.

Emphasising the role of teachers in shaping the next generation of Nobel Laureates, Prof. Tomas Lindahl recollected, “I couldn’t have achieved the Nobel Prize without a good teacher.” There is strong interrelationships between education and research, and that relationship should be strengthened, he said

India's population, pollution, healthcare, food security and biodiversity face challenges that can find solutions in science, Nobel Laureate Prof. Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard said. She praised enthusiasm and talent of Indian students and said that the science here is of great quality, but struggled to thrive due to other challenges India faces. There was a need of measures to improve the environment ---provide cleaner environment to bring talented people back to India, she said.

The day-long event saw two panel discussions on building world-class institutes in India and helping science reach our society. The panel discussions were graced by head of institutes, the Nobel Laureates, philanthropists, and educationalists. At the concluding session, the two panels submitted their recommendations to the Hon’ble President.

Videos of the event:

Inaugural address: Facebook Live video
Panel Discussion 1: Facebook Live video
Panel Discussion 2: Facebook Live video
Concluding session: Facebook Live video - Nobel Prize Series India, Facebook Live video - Office of the President

Disclosure: The team behind Research Matters promoted by Gubbi Labs was responsible for content that went on the exhibits of Ek Pradarshini - The Best of Indian Science.