Critics of India’s space programme have, in the past, demanded justification for sending rockets into space while the urgent issues of poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, and poor health cry for attention and funding. India has maintained that her space programme runs on less than a tenth of NASA’s budget, making it one of the most economical in the world and producing development-based benefits for the country’s environment, weather predictions, education, agriculture, and health.
Therefore, it was surprising when India’s ambitious, but unsuccessful, voyage to the far side of the Moon in 2019 did not publicly reignite that discussion. Instead, most of the 1.3 billion-strong nation stood in solidarity with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) when the Moon lander, Vikram, lost contact with the Earth station and later crash landed. A misty-eyed Prime Minister Narendra Modi consoled a tearful ISRO chief K Sivan. The country grieved, hoping and praying there would be a successful run to the Moon in the coming years.
We capture these tears, tribulations, nail-biting drama, and the science behind India’s shoe-string-budget space programme in this year’s cover story.
Talking of the science-economy relationship, we also analyse in one of our features the direct macro-deliverables from government research funding and look at the best ways in which a resource-poor country such as India can ensure tangible benefits from each rupee spent on scientific research.
Gender issues in science have always been important in India. In this issue, we reflect on why a better balance of men and women in leadership positions could lead to higher profitability in scientific enterprises; and also shine a light on India’s gender-skewed science awards. Two stories, about an anthropologist who made important revelations about indigenous Andamanese tribes, and a biologist working on pheromones of snow leopards and tigers, offer fascinating insights into the lives of pioneering women scientists and their science. We also speak to biologist Chandrima Shaha, the first woman elected president of the 84-year-old Indian National Science Academy (INSA) in January 2020, about her vision for mentoring more women in science.
In 2019, we used the term ‘Day Zero’ for the first time to denote the dystopic water emergency that the world is facing today. That’s the day when a city’s taps dry out and people have to stand in line to collect a daily quota of water. Climate change-triggered extreme heat, drying aquifers and extreme weather events have become the new normal for much of South Asia. We look at what this might mean for children, who will continue to endure the toll of climate change for a long time to come. On a more positive note, we explore how some undaunted farmer citizen scientists are finding new ways of adapting to climate-resilient crops.
The Nature India photo contest themed ‘food’ saw breath-taking entries from across the world that demonstrate the deep links between food, health, environment, nutrition, and happiness of communities. We present some of the top entries.
Nature India annual volumes select the best research highlights, news, features, commentaries and opinion pieces published through the year. Through this thoughtful selection, the editors at Nature Research bring to our readers a ready reference of the latest in India’s science.
We look forward to your feedback.
You will find more on our our archival annual issues here: 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2007-2013. To subscribe to the Nature India annual issues, please see here or write to natureindia at nature.com.