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Scientific Social Responsibility – COVID-19: India Fights Back – RSTV IAS UPSC

  • IASbaba
  • May 19, 2020
  • 0
The Big Picture- RSTV, UPSC Articles
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Scientific Social Responsibility

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TOPIC: General Studies 2

  • Global Crisis – COVID-19

Scientists and researchers have been doing their best in the fight against Covid-19 by coming up with solutions to the various challenges borne by this pandemic. Govt. of India is planning to come out with a new policy on Scientific Social Responsibility to bridge the gap between science and society. 

India is going to be possibly the first country in the world to implement a Scientific Social Responsibility (SSR) Policy on the lines of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to encourage science and technology (S&T) institutions and individual scientists in the country to proactively engage in science outreach activities to connect science with the society. 

Scientific Social Responsibility

Scientific Social Responsibility is ‘the ethical obligation of knowledge workers in all fields of science and technology to voluntarily contribute their knowledge and resources to the widest spectrum of stakeholders in society, in a spirit of service and conscious reciprocity’, according to the draft document.

Here, knowledge workers include anyone who participates in the knowledge economy in the areas of human, social, natural, physical, biological, medical, mathematical and computer/data sciences and their associated technologies.

  • Confluence of scientific knowledge with visionary leadership and social conscience
  • Building synergies among all stakeholders in scientific knowledge community and also about developing linkages between science and society
  • Bridging science-society, science-science and society-science gaps, thereby bringing trust, partnership and responsibility of science at an accelerated peace towards achieving social goals

What inspired it?

The Constitution of India (Part-IV, Article 51A(h)) mandates for developing the scientific temper, humanism and spirit of enquiry as part of the fundamental duties of a citizen. 

This idea has been carried forward in earlier science policies of India (Scientific Policy Resolution 1958, Technology Policy Statement 1983, Science and Technology Policy 2003 and Science Technology and Innovation Policy 2013) that propagate for taking the message and benefits of science to society and for bridging the gap between the two.

The new SSR Policy is an effort to make scientific institutions and individual scientists more responsible to society and other stakeholders. Scientists have an ethical obligation of ‘giving back’ to society when they use taxpayers’ money for doing science, says the draft.

India’s Step Forward: SSR Policy

Under this programme, researchers who are working on a science project funded by any of the Ministries under the Central government will have to undertake activities to devote at least 10 person-days of SSR per year for exchanging scientific knowledge to society. It also recognises the need to provide incentives for outreach activities with necessary budgetary support. It has also been proposed to give credit to knowledge workers/scientists for individual SSR activities in their annual performance appraisal and evaluation. No institution would be allowed to outsource or sub-contract their SSR activities and projects.

Centre would draw up a list of activities which could be taken up under the Scientific Social Responsibility programme, which will be similar to Corporate Social Responsibility. The activities could range from going to colleges delivering lectures, writing an article in a magazine or doing something beyond the curriculum.

For implementation of the policy, a national portal will be developed up to capture societal needs requiring scientific interventions and as a platform for implementers and for reporting SSR activities.

This will

  • Popularise science and make it more accessible to the public
  • Facilitate easy access to resources and knowledge about the investments and impacts of Science and Technology (S&T) on society
  • The scientific community assuming moral responsibility amongst which may trigger social entrepreneurship and start-ups impacting S&T ecosystem and society.
  • The move would not only bridge the gap between research institutes and the civilians, but also help scientists hone their communication skills.

Connecting the Dots:

  1. Is SSR going to be an eye-wash? Critically comment. 
  2. Do you think that SSR is going to be reduced eventually to a box-ticking exercise that serves bureaucratic expediency? Justify your stand.

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