The 99th edition of the Indian Science Congress happening this week in Bhubaneswar appeared different from its recent predecessors in one big way — on day one, the halls were packed to capacity and were spilling over. Some of the plenary talks saw standing crowds. A particular talk by Nobel Laureate Rolf Zinkernagel from the University of Zurich actually had over 200 scientists and researchers banging at the auditorium doors, which were closed by the organisers to avoid overcrowding inside!
Now, is that an indication of the growing popularity of the annual mega-meet of scientists, policy makers, researchers and science students? Organisers said close to 15, 000 delegates were expected to attend the event over six days.
The second day onwards, however, the crowds started to thin. Some sessions were cancelled as the speakers did not turn up. Special sections were dedicated to children and women scientists, though they also failed to attract too many participants or interested onlookers. Delegates were missing in hordes, perhaps allured by the many tourist destinations in the state of Orissa.
Despite these usual goings-on associated with a mega event of such nature, there have been a few bright sparks. One among them was a session discussing the new science policy being formulated by the India government.
It saw some key science policy makers of the country — Planning Commission member K. Kasturirangan, Secretary to the Indian government V. M. Katoch, Director General of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Samir Brahmachari and secretary to the department of science and technology T. Ramasami among others — deliberating on what must go into the new science policy. At the inaugural session of the congress India’s science and technology minister Vilasrao Deshmukh had promised to give the country a new, “well-balanced, transparent and evidence-based science policy”. Ramasami confirmed that “we will present to you the new policy before the next science congress”.
Nature India will discuss the new science policy in some detail soon.