Scientific Social Responsibility

  • During the 107th Indian Science Congress, the Department of Science and Technology, spoke about the government’s policy on implementing Scientific Social Responsibility (SSR).

Indian Science Congress (ISC)

  • The 107th ISC took place at the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bengaluru, from 3rd to 7th January, 2020, under the theme- Science and Technology: Rural Development.
  • ISC is organised by the Indian Science Congress Association (ISCA) every year in the first week of January.
  • ISCA owes its origin to the foresight and initiative of two British Chemists, namely, Professor J. L. Simonsen and Professor P.S. Mac Mahon.
  • The first meeting of the Congress was held from January 15-17, 1914 at the premises of the Asiatic Society, Calcutta, with Justice Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee, the then Vice-Chancellor of the Calcutta University, as President.

What is Scientific Social Responsibility?

  • It is the ethical obligation of knowledge workers in all fields of science and technology to voluntarily contribute their knowledge and resources to the widest spectrum of stakeholders in society, in a spirit of service and conscious reciprocity.
  • Here, knowledge workers include anyone who participates in the knowledge economy in the areas of human, social, natural, physical, biological, medical, mathematical, and computer/data sciences and their associated technologies.

Idea for SSR

  • The Constitution of India (Part-IV, Article 51A (h)) mandates for developing the scientific temper, humanism and spirit of enquiry as part of the fundamental duties of a citizen.
  • This idea has been carried forward in earlier science policies of India (Scientific Policy Resolution 1958, Technology Policy Statement 1983, Science and Technology Policy 2003 and Science Technology and Innovation Policy 2013) that propagate for taking the message and benefits of science to society and for bridging the gap between the two.

About SSR Policy

  • The Government of India, through the Department of Science and Technology has released a draft of the new Scientific Social Responsibility (SSR) Policy on 9 September, 2019, for public comments.
  • The Policy is intended to promote social responsibility in the scientific establishments on the lines of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

Objectives

  • To harness the voluntary potential that is latent in the country’s scientific community to strengthen science and society linkages so as to makescience and technology (S&T) ecosystem vibrant.
  • Developing a mechanism for ensuring access to scientific knowledge, transferring benefits of science to meet societal needs, promoting collaborations to identify problems and develop solutions.

Need for the Policy

  • The new India with its vibrant young populace requires a renewed emphasis on the integration of science and technology (S&T) with society at both the institutional and individual levels.
  • New initiatives such as Transformation of Aspirational Districts, Make in India, Swachh Bharat and Digital India, requiresan institutional mechanism facilitating easy access to resources and knowledge, leading to inclusive growth and development.

Salient Features

  • The policy would involve four different categories of stakeholders: beneficiaries, implementers, assessors and supporters (BIAS).
  • Under the proposed policy, individual scientists or knowledge workers will be required to devote at least 10 person-days of SSR per year for exchanging scientific knowledge to society.
  • It has proposed to give credit to knowledge workers or scientists for individual SSR activities in their annual performance appraisal and evaluation.
  • No institution would be allowed to outsource or sub-contract their SSR activities and projects.

Implementation Strategy

  • A central and nodal agency would be set up at DST to supervise, monitor and implement SSR activities in the country. Once formalized, the policy requires all the Central Government Ministries, State Governments and S&T institutions to make their own plans to implement Scientific Social Responsibility in India according to their mandate.
  • Every knowledge institution would prepare its implementation plan for achieving its SSR goals. All knowledge workers would be sensitized by their institutions about their ethical responsibility to contribute towards the betterment of society and the achievement of national developmental and environmental goals.
  • There should be an SSR monitoring system in each institution to assess institutional projects and individual activities. Each knowledge institution would publish an annual SSR report.

Envisioned Benefits of SSR

  • Expanding the domain of science and its benefits to the community. Encouraging students into science through handholding and nurturing their interest.
  • Providing training for skill development and upgrading scientific knowledge.
  • Helping Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs),Startups and informal sector enterprises in increasing their overall productivity.
  • Creating an opportunity for cooperation and sharing of S&T resources in laboratories with other researchers in universities and colleges.
  • Empowering women, disadvantaged and weaker sections society through scientific intervention.
  • Identification of best practices and success models on SSR for replication with multiplier effect in the country.

Significance

  • Making Scientific Institutions & Scientists More Responsible: It is an effort to make scientific institutions and individual scientists more responsible to society and other stakeholders, which may trigger social entrepreneurship and start-ups impacting S&T ecosystem and society. It would help strengthen the existing efforts of institutions in an organised and sustainable manner
  • Strengthening Science-Society Linkage: The policy envisages strengthening science-society linkages in an organic manner by building synergy among all the stakeholders so as to usher in a cultural change in the conduct of science forthe benefit of society at large in the country.
  • Transformative Role: It would play a transformative role in bringing scientific and innovative solutions to societal problems, uplifting the life standard of marginalized sections of society through capacity-building and skill development. It will also contribute in achieving Sustainable Development Goals, environmental goals and Technology Vision 2035.

 

Source : Civil Services Chronicle Online, January, 2020