Scientists split over Ramakrishnan’s attack on Indian Science Congress | The Daily Star
06:45 PM, January 07, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 08:11 PM, January 07, 2016

Scientists split over Ramakrishnan’s attack on Indian Science Congress

The scientists in India have engaged in a debate over Indian-born Nobel laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan’s remark that the Indian Science Congress (ISC) is a circus and serves little purpose.

After the strong comment made by the noted scientist, some members of the science community of the country demanded the ISC to be disbanded, while others backed the initiative saying that it acts a platform of interaction between scientists, and public and policy makers, reports The Times Of India.

Earlier, Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, a structural biologist at Cambridge University who was awarded Nobel Prize in 2009, refused to attend the Congress ever again saying that it is a circus in a damning indictment during an interview with The Times Of India.

"I attended one day (of an earlier Congress) and very little science was discussed. It was a circus. I find that it's an organization where very little science is discussed. I will never attend a science congress again in my life," Ramakrishnan said when asked why he wasn't attending the ongoing annual Science Congress in Mysuru.

"The idea that Indians had airplanes 2,000 years ago sounds almost essentially impossible to me. I don't believe it. The point is that if that technology was produced in a method so described that anybody could replicate it, then it becomes science," Ramakrishnan also said while addressing a gathering at Punjab University earlier in the day, referring to a claim made by one participant during the 2015 congress that aircraft was invented by a sage during the Vedic times.

The scientist had objected to politics and religious ideology being mixed with science last year.

B G Sidharth, director of B M Birla Science centre in Hyderabad, called the ISC a 'Kumbh Mela of science' where the Prime Minister's visit takes away the entire focus.

"It would be much better to spend the money on setting up a medical college than organize the congress," Sidharth said, adding, "It has become a platform where old cronies meet and indulge in 'you-scratch-my-back-and-I-will-scratch-yours' exercise."

 “ISC has deteriorated over decades and holding the event now is an absolute waste of money,” said PM Bhargava, founder director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology who returned his Padma Bhushan award last year in protest of intolerance in the country.

However, noted mathematician Manjul Bhargava, who the first Indian to win the Fields Medal, the Nobel equivalent for maths, backed the initiative saying that a lot of positives came out of the congress.

"What is the purpose of a science congress? Not necessarily to advance individual research. For that you go to specialized conferences on your subject. The purpose of the science congress is to meet scientists from across the country, build connections, find common areas of interest," said Bhargava, also a professor at the Princeton University. 

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