Nature India | Indigenus

Lindau lessons: Equality for genders, nations

In June 2016, 21 young Indian scientists made a trip to the beautiful island of Lindau, in south west Germany, to attend the 66th Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting, dedicated this year to physics. In this sunny side of Germany, 29 Nobel Laureates met with 400 young scientists from 80 countries in an informal setting, which has come to be celebrated as the hallmark of these meetings.

On a boat trip from Lindau to Mainau island, Nature India caught up with the Indian delegation consisting of master’s students, PhDs and Post-docs, freshly chosen every year since 2001 by India’s Department of Science and Technology (DST) in collaboration with the German Research Foundation (DFG) to be part of this science extravaganza. In this blog series ‘Lindau lessons‘, Nature India will bring to you the unique experience of some of the young scientists from India who basked in the Lindau sun this yearJoin their online conversation using the #lindaulessons hashtag.

Next up in the series is Ritabrata Thakur, a research scholar at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research – Centre for Interdisciplinary Sciences, Hyderabad. Ritabrata reflects upon the idea of equality of genders and countries in science — a thought that was much discussed at the Lindau meet.

Ritabrata with David J. Wineland, winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in physics.

Ritabrata with David J. Wineland, winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in physics

On Lake Constance, Lindau is a beautiful island, and so apt to be the venue for such an exotic meet. Apart from science that we soaked in, it was the exchange of cultural ideas which made this experience so much more exciting.

For instance, I was surprised by a young Slovakian scientist when he said he knew about Hyderabad, the place I am currently settled in, and described to me the Operation Polo of the Indian government! Also mention worthy is a kind encounter with a Gambian caterer during a late dinner, over which we discussed the primary and higher education system of his country. I had the unique chance of talking to young scientists from many different developed countries as also from countries like Ghana and Slovenia, something you don’t get to do everyday.

The meeting had lectures, science breakfasts, poster presentations and discussion sessions with the Nobel
Laureates and special dinners at various places (including one in Austria) and organisations. The Nobel Laureates were humble and kind enough to share their personal anecdotes beyond their fields of work. We all knew that we could learn about their works from literature but not how they reached there. The one week of stay at Lindau allowed interaction with scientists and engineers from a range of fields and that is what is necessary for scientific advancement, to be aware of the works around the world.

We had the opportunity to meet the selected best and learnt about the current challenges in science from a first hand perspective. We also learnt a lot about research in Germany and the way the country has attained and sustained itself at such a top spot in scientific research.

The concept of a horizontal world with equal opportunities for countries and genders came up frequently in discussions. The idea of science is not to go ahead alone but to take along those from underprivileged circumstances or from politically disturbed regions.

Scientists are both followers and leaders. We have so many problems and so many open questions that we need many more people to come to science. For that we need to make sure that a career in science is conducive and affordable for women, who in this present world are associated with the primary responsibility of home-care.

The scientific community should also help children from disadvantaged nations. For, the future is in the hands of today’s children. The onus is on the youth to make the right channels for the younger ones to follow.

More in the series: 

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