‘Public outreach is important for science’

  • Snehal Rebello, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Jan 03, 2015 22:03 IST

The Mumbai marathon this year will have a most unlikely group as participants. Students from schools around the country’s first uranium mine in Jaduguda, Jharkhand, will show they are ‘healthy’ as they will run alongside thousands of well-heeled Mumbaiites on January 18.

The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) is set to use the marathon as a mode of public outreach, to tell citizens that children living around the mine operated by the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL), are normal.

“There have been reports that children living around the mine suffer various deformities. Through the marathon, we want to show that these children studying in schools run by UCIL are healthy,” said RK Sinha, DAE secretary and atomic energy commission chairperson.

A two-hour session on the first day of the 102nd Indian Science Congress saw heads from the country’s top seven scientific departments discuss the need and importance of reaching out to the public and disseminating information on both scientific achievements and developments.

“Anti-technology activists use public outreach better than scientists,” said R Chidambaram, principal scientific advisor to the government of India. “While scientists should not make dogmatic statements without analysing data, public outreach is absolutely important.”

With the Indian Space Research Organisation using both Facebook and Twitter to popularise the Mars mission last year, K VijayRaghavan, secretary, departments of biotechnology and science and technology, said social media has become an important tool of communication. “We as scientists need to communicate in multiple languages via radio, television and the internet,” he said.

Raghvan said, “Many government departments are using social media. But what we need are efficient people who are also connected to science policies.” Even as India took pride in being polio free, VM Katoch, director general, Indian Council of Medical Research, said, “Health science outreach has been minimum though things are now changing.”

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