With the revolution in scientific education system worldwide, we need to adopt a new method for the teaching of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in the country. In this context, Alpana Saha interacted with Dr TV Venkateswaran. He is one of the popular Scientist cum Science communicator from Vigyan Prasar. He brings Science to you in a very simplified and engaging way.
How can institutions of higher learning and science academics help in the popularization of science or take the science to a larger population?
There are many ways this can be done.
Mostly in this, we would be discussing the people who are not a scientist or are not form the hardcore science background. Firstly there is indeed a tradition in Indian science institutions commonly known as an Open Day, where people are asked to come and visit the institutions and have look at various advancements in the field of science, and these people mostly constitute of those who are primarily living around the location where these institutions are located.
Secondly, some scientist/researcher in any institute having a bend to share the information, which is apparently not the primary objective of any researcher, building something meaningful and having a weight. Having the need for communicating and if there is interaction, it should be having some significance, and with all these interactions they surely bring in some authenticity. The researcher who has a certain amount of interest and bend of mind should come forward for such social interaction in order to have a broader understanding of what science is capable of doing.
Thirdly with the introduction of new ideas, new technologies, it is very important that the old tabletop researches should be revised so that it can be taken as a very beneficial tool in science communication. For e.g., ten years prior, mobile phones were not as common as they are today, providing us with a lot of applications, which can be used to enhance the experience of the whole interaction and could be a very useful technology while teaching.
How Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) is different and similar at the same time from each other?
The commonality of STEM is that it is streamed in naturalism, which in turn gives us an understanding that there is no scope for any supernatural or supernatural forces into any explanation. Secondly, it is considered as an organized scepticism when you don’t take anything as true and easily. Some people will not agree with this aspect of science, but the question is why not. The sole reason for such extraordinary success is because a great caution is always administered, which helps the researcher in such phase where he or she does not easily accept the given conclusion that easily.
“Only by questioning and trying to prove something is wrong, you are able to get to the core of the truth.” From a philosophical angle, but from historical angle also it is very important because if we have a look at the growth structure in the health sector, which is incredible all over the world if it is gone up from where it was in 1000 years ago, it is largely because of STEM.
Modern concept is that it is not enough to just know about a particular subject/discipline and emphasizes on that you do have a basic concept, but are also capable of looking at things differently from a completely different aspect. Underlying intake of STEM is critical thinking.
Emphasis is on application, innovation and creation.
What have been the preparations to manage future technology?
Firstly, all these AI, Biotechnology, Machine learning, nanotechnology, such technologies are neither science nor technology, but they are techno-science, which is a very important fact that we should not miss. All these require a very high level of science understanding, and moreover, all the ideas of different disciplines are to be removed and a much more holistic approach is to be administered.
Emerging new areas of technologies are very novel and working in silos cannot lead to any new innovation in the present world.
What changes would you suggest in India in the field of scientific study?
No need for the distinction such as theoretical and practical understanding in science, which in turn is very much required in critical thinking and with the use of an example to make the other person understand in a better way. The main objective is to have a feel how gravitation is like using suitable examples, or maybe how modelling anything works and what is there to be done to improve the pre-existing models.
Looking things from a holistic perspective is very important, i.e., whether one would just look at a water cycle as merely a cycle, or as a huge global system, we need to look at 21st-century problems in a slightly different way.
Do you feel like there is a need for change screening process of various research institutes for its admission and various other things?
In fact, the very idea of the screening process itself is necessitated because there is a number of applicants and less number of seats available. The number of scientific personnel per million as recommended by UNESCO, India is not doing great. More scientific institutions need to be created and more personnel should be absorbed in the system.
India aims to triple the existing number of institutions as well as scientific opportunity in the country. We don’t want to create the same prototype or copy cat in the country. The same screening process for the entire program won’t work. So, different programs demand a different screening process.
How Indian scientific potential is harnessed both for the development of the country and well being of the nation?
We are far from reaching this goal. We need to create a process through which existing achievable thing can be targeted. We are going to look at the perspective of the best possible way, which will grant the best possible life to the people of the country. The will have a healthy life with a prospering condition as well. It is not going to be possible without bringing all the citizen of the country into this area.
Is there a need for change in the training process?
More scientific institutions are required or what you call a need for a potential three times growth from what we have now is very important. Having one kind of screening for different innovators is not very much useful as different institutes will be looking at the innovations in a completely different perspective.
It is kind of truism, as per se humans won’t be able to survive without oxygen, similarly in coming times, it won’t be actually possible for a society to survive without science, this doesn’t mean that another aspect of this is not important as a complete human being. Not only with material gain but also spiritual comfort, for e.g., Arts & literature all these makes you a complete human being, but for all these attainments of spiritual comfort, there is a need for material comfort, which is ultimately provided by science and technology. And making us realize, who we are, what we are, and for what we are destined in this universe.