Indian Science Congress been postponed

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What’s in today’s article?

  • Why in news?
  • What is Indian Science Congress (ISC)?
  • Declining glory of ISC
  • The government’s dilemma with respect to ISC
  • News Summary: Indian Science Congress been postponed
  • Postponement of the Indian Science Congress - a big deal
  • Why has the Science Congress been postponed this year?

Why in news?

  • The Indian Science Congress has been postponed. The five-day event will not begin on its customary date, January 3.
    • The Science Congress is the biggest meeting of scientists and science students in the country and has been a regular event for over a century.
  • Also, there is no firm word on when — and whether — the congress will meet this year.

Indian Science Congress (ISC)

  • About
    • ISC is a one-of-its-kind event in the country which brings together the scientific communities on a platform for their interaction with students and the general public on matters related to science.
  • Oganised by
    • The event is organized by the Indian Science Congress Association (ISCA).
    • ISCA is an independent body functioning with the support of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) in the central government.
  • Permanent fixture on the calendar
    • Dubbed as the largest gathering of scientists and students in the country, the Science Congress is an annual five-day event from January 3 to 7, a permanent fixture on the Prime Minister’s calendar.
    • The first session of the Indian Science Congress was held in 1914at the premises of the Asiatic Society, Calcutta.

Declining glory of ISC

  • In more recent times, the event has attracted attention for all the wrong reasons:
    • lack of serious discussion, the promotion of pseudoscience, outlandish claims by random speakers, and the absence of useful outcomes.
  • As a result, several top scientists have advocated the discontinuation of the event, or at least withdrawal of government support.
    • For organising the Science Congress, the government provides an annual grant.
    • Besides this, the government has no role to play in organising the ISC.

The government’s dilemma

  • The ISCA is an independent body, and the government has no role to play in the selection of the panelists or speakers, the papers to be presented etc.
  • But at the same time, the ISCA runs with DST support. Besides the annual grant for the Science Congress, the government also pays the salaries of the ISCA’s permanent staff.
  • And because the congress is inaugurated by the PM and attended by other ministers and senior officials, it is perceived as being closely associated with the government.
  • As such, every time the event lands in controversy the government is blamed.
  • Also, while the event is presented as a showcase scientific forum in India, its proceedings often convey an embarrassing picture of Indian science internationally.

News Summary: Indian Science Congress been postponed

  • The Indian Science Congress meet might not take place this year. The 109th edition of the event has been postponed.

Postponement of the Indian Science Congress - a big deal

  • Postponement is unprecedented
    • With the exception of the two years following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic— 2021 and 2022 — the Indian Science Congress has been held every year since 1914.
    • The 108th edition of the Congress was held in Nagpur from January 3-7, 2023.
  • Permanent fixture on the PM’s calendar
    • The congress is inaugurated by the Prime Minister. It is a permanent fixture on the PM’s calendar, and is usually his/her first public engagement of the new year.

Why has the Science Congress been postponed this year?

  • The crisis is the fallout of an unresolved disagreement between the Indian Science Congress Association (ISCA), and the Department of Science and Technology (DST) in the Union Ministry of Science and Technology.
    • ISCA - a registered society that organises the event.
    • DST - the main funder of the congress.
  • In September 2023, the DST pulled funding support to the congress, alleging financial irregularities.
  • The ISCA denied the accusation, and challenged the DST’s directive that government funds should not be spent on anything related to the Science Congress, in court.
  • This only deepened the rift. The lawsuit remains pending.

Q1) What is Department of Science and Technology (DST)?

The Department of Science and Technology (DST) is a department within the Ministry of Science and Technology in India. It was established in May 1971 to promote new areas of science and technology and to coordinate and promote scientific and technological activities in the country.

Q2) What is Asiatic Society, Calcutta? 

The Asiatic Society is a Government of India organisation founded during the Company rule in India to enhance and further the cause of "Oriental research".


Source: Why has the Indian Science Congress been postponed? | Economic Times | First Post