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Science Popularisation Movement in India

Article 51A (h) of the Constitution upholds scientific temper to be one of the fundamental duties of every citizen: “It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform.” One clear way of inculcating scientific temper in the public at large is to increase Public Understanding of Science (PUoS). This is a task that Vigyan Prasar (V.P.), an autonomous registered society under the Department of Science and Technology (DST), has been engaged in for the past 20 years.

Founded on October 12,1989, V.P. has diverse activities in the public outreach of science. While promoting and propagating a scientific and rational outlook in society, it has constantly diversified and improvised its activities to meet its objectives. Over the years, V.P. has nurtured interest in science among people, encouraged creativity, and developed in people the capacity for informed decision-making. Besides developing and disseminating original and interesting communication material for print, electronic and digital media, V.P. trains science communicators, catalyses creative activities and conducts research in various aspects of science and technology (S&T) communication. The stated vision of V.P. is to “continuously strive to emerge as an institution for capacity building in science communication and as the central node for knowledge resource networks for science dissemination and popularisation among people…”

To this end, V.P. has consistently adapted, employed and utilised new and emerging technologies and established itself as a leading resource-cum-facility centre in S&T communication in the country. Today, V.P. is a major national centre for the development and dissemination of high-quality software on S&T communication. In particular, its efforts at production and airing of science programmes on radio and television, and utilisation of modern technologies for spreading science among the masses have been highly appreciated. Some of its prominent activities are as follows:

TV Programmes

Since May 2005, V.P. has produced and aired science programmes on Doordarshan’s National channel, initially in collaboration with the Development and Educational Communication Unit of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), and now on its own. DVDs of these are popular in educational institutions. V.P. is scheduled to launch programmes through the Lok Sabha TV channel shortly.

Some of the highly acclaimed television serials of V.P. include a 26-part science quiz serial titled “Jigyasa” and a 12-part serial “Jeete Raho” on common ailments and medicines. A 26-part serial, “Kahani Dharti Ki” (The Story of Earth), produced as part of the International Year of Planet Earth 2008, began in February 2009. It was also aired beginning September 2009. Judging from the thousands of e-mail responses received, the serials are popular outside the country as well, notably in Pakistan. A three-part serial on “Eclipses” was produced on the occasion of the total solar eclipse of 2009.

The National Institute of Science Communication and Information Resources (NISCAIR), located at New Delhi, India, is an information science institute in India founded in 2002. It operates under the umbrella of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) that comprise 38 other labs and institutes in India. The institute provides the Associateship in Information Science (AIS) Degree.

The National Council for Science and Technology Communication (NCSTC) is mandated to communicate Science and Technology to masses, stimulate scientific and technological temper and coordinate and orchestrate such efforts throughout the country. The programmes of NCSTC aims at building capacity for informed decision making in the community and promote scientific thinking. It is devoted towards societal upliftment through the dissemination of scientific knowledge in an informed manner and builds programmes with the help of different media which percolate down to every nook and corner of the society.

The NCSTC focuses on outreach activities, training in Science and Technology communication, development, production & dissemination of S & T software, incentive programmes, and field based Sci-Com projects, research in S&T communication, international co-operation, motivating students and teachers, environment awareness and programmes with a special component exclusively for women.

Some of its important successful initiatives, over the years include the campaigns over the Year of Scientific Awareness, Year of Physics, Year of Astronomy, Year of Mathematics, observation of the National Science Day and National Mathematics Day, the National Children’s Science Congress, National Teacher’s Science Congress, and Science Express etc.

A multi- pronged effort has been developed by the NCSTC including:

  1. Communicating science using folk media;
  2. Use of mass & digital media for science communication and  popularization;
  3. Use of Social media in science and Technology Popularization

The Indian Science Writers’ Association (ISWA) was established on April-14, 1985 to develop and nurture the science writing and science communication professions in India. It has more than three hundred members and nine chapters in various Indian states.

Science Museums

A science museum is a museum devoted primarily to science. Older science museums tended to concentrate on static displays of objects related to natural history, paleontology, geology, industry and industrial machinery, etc. Modern trends in museology have broadened the range of subject matter and introduced many interactive exhibits. Many if not most modern science museums — which increasingly refer to themselves as science centers or “discovery centers” — also emphasize technology, and are therefore also technology museums.

The mission statements of science centers and modern museums vary, but they are united in being places that make science accessible and encourage the excitement of discovery. They are an integral and dynamic part of the learning environment, promoting exploration from the first “Eureka!” moment to today’s cutting-edge research.

National Council of Science Museums (NCSM), an autonomous society under the Ministry of Culture, Government of India was formed on April 4, 1978. Today, it administers 25 Science Centres/Museums/Planetariums spread all over India. Science City, Kolkata, Birla Industrial and Technological Museum (BITM), Kolkata, Nehru Science Centre, Mumbai, Vishvesvraya Industrial and Technological Museum (VITM), Bangluru and National Science Centre, Delhi are National level centres of NCSM. All having its Regional centres and District Level Centres called Satellite Units (SUs).

As per recommendation of the Task Force constituted by the Union Planning Commission in early 1970’s to assess the activities of the Science Museums, the NCSM initiated process to set up National level science museums/centres, Regional Science Centres and District Science Centres located in metropolis, state capitals and district headquarters respectively. NCSM, with its Headquarters in Kolkata, has its own network of 25 science museums/centres spread across the country and a Central Research & Training Laboratory (CRTL), in Kolkata. CRTL is the Council’s central hub for professional training, research and development. In addition, NCSM develops Science Centres/museums for different States and Union Territories of India. NCSM has also developed several centres and galleries for different Govt. organsiations such as ONGC, BEL, ICAR and also collaborated internationally for development of Museum/Science Centres or for galleries such as Rajiv Gandhi Science Centre, Mauritius, ”India gallery on Buddhism’ at ‘International Buddhist Museum’, Sri Lanka etc. Today, NCSM forms the largest network of science centres and museums in the world.

In addition to development of Science centres/museums, NCSM strives to communicate Science and educate masses by its Mobile Science Exhibitions, Lectures and Demonstrations, Training and Workshops, Publications etc. NCSM has also sent exhibition to countries like Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Russia, USA, Bhutan, China, Bangladesh, Bulgaria and France.

The Objectives of NCSM are:

  1. To portray the growth of science and technology and their applications in industry and human welfare, with a view to develop scientific attitude and temper and to create, inculcate and sustain a general awareness amongst the people
  2. To collect, restore and preserve important historical objects, which represent landmarks in the development of science, technology and industry
  3. To design, develop and fabricate science museum exhibits, demonstration equipment and scientific teaching aids for science education and popularization of science
  4. To popularize science and technology in cities, urban and rural areas for the benefit of students and for the common man by organizing exhibitions, seminars, popular lectures, science camps and various other programs
  5. To supplement science education given in schools and colleges and to organize various out-of-school educational activities to foster a spirit of scientific enquiry and creativity among the students
  6. To organize training programs for science teachers/students/young entrepreneurs/technicians/ handicapped/housewives and others on specific subjects of science, technology and industry
  7. To render assistance to universities, technical institutions, museums, schools and colleges or other bodies in planning and organizing science museums and also in training of personnel for museum profession
  8. To establish Centres for development of science exhibits and demonstration aids
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