Nobel Laureate Prof. Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society, who called the Indian Science Congress a “circus,” discussed the implications of some the Indian government policies on science and technology. He summarily rejects the idea of scientists needing permission to discuss the results of a public-funded, published work with the media or the public. Excerpts :
In Britain all governments in the last 100 years have subscribed to some extent to what is called the Haldane principle. What that means is that it is the right of the elected government to set overall priorities. However, it is usually done in consultation with scientists to see what’s feasible. Nobody elected scientists; so scientists can’t decide whatever they want to do with the money. The government has a right to set an overall priority. But having set priorities, it is not for the government to tell scientists how they should be doing things. They shouldn’t be interfering in the implementation of the goals.
If you want to broadbase science, you should spend on basic research. You cannot spend all your money on applied science because applied science depends on the knowledge of basic science. Basic science also develops the knowhow of future.
Do you subscribe to the idea that scientists should be free to communicate the results of a public-funded work to the public?
Some scientists are very poor communicators. And it wouldn’t be a good idea to force every scientist to be a communicator. Some people are best left alone to do their work and some others are good communicators and they should be encouraged. Scientists as a community owe it to the public to explain why public money is spent for various things; it is a duty to communicate to the public. But it is not reasonable to force every scientist to be involved in communication. So we need to be a bit flexible.
But scientists should be free to talk to the media or public about their work. In the U.K., if you are representing your organization’s views, and it goes for me as well if I am representing the Royal Society’s views, it has to be cleared. But I can certainly talk as an individual about my work, especially, published work. There is no reason why someone should give permission for scientists to talk about their work, unless there is some issue like if the information is classified or has security implications. For example, the institute may be in the process of filing a patent. In that case they can’t talk to the press. But if the work is already published then there is no reason why they should not talk freely. In the
case of published work, I would have no problem discussing with the press.
Courtesy: The HinduNet fugia conseri bearcium