Geographies in Depth

Why thousands of Indians just marched in the name of science

A protestor holds a sign in support of science during the March For Science in Seattle, Washington, U.S. April 22, 2017.  REUTERS/David Ryder     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTS13GR6

Image: REUTERS/David Ryder

Alice Hazelton
Programme Lead, Science and Society, World Economic Forum Geneva
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Thousands of people came together in 40 cities across India this week to march in support of science. Inspired by the global March for Science, which took place four months ago in at least 600 cities worldwide, the Indian edition on 9 August 2017 called for more investment in scientific research and development.

Organized and coordinated by the Breakthrough Science Society, whose headquarters are in Kolkata, scientists, students and citizens used the march to call for at least 3% of India’s gross domestic product (GDP) to be dedicated to research and development. For the past decade, Indian investment in science has stood stagnant at just 0.9% of GDP, far lower than many other nations including Brazil and Russia. Twenty years ago the level of research in India exceeded that in China but is now less than half.

In January, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasized the importance of scientific research at the Indian Science Congress. "If we want science to deliver, we must not constrain it," he said, adding that "by 2030, India will be among the top three countries in science and technology".

Scientists who participated in yesterday’s March for Science are impatient to see these words translated into action. In addition to funding, the organizers of India’s March for Science called for the end to the "propagation of unscientific, obscurantist ideas and religious intolerance", as well as better adherence to Article 51A of the Constitution, which states that it is the duty of every citizen to "develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform".

Moving forwards: Part of India's March for Science Image: Breakthrough Science Society

One of the oldest civilizations in the world, India has a strong scientific tradition and was actively contributing to the field long before modern laboratories were established. Notable modern achievements include the role played by Indian scientists in the discovery of gravitational waves and the Higgs Boson, and in launching the Mars Orbiter Mission, also known as Mangalyaan.

The theme of this year’s India Economic Summit, which will take place on 4-6 October 2017 in New Delhi, is ‘Creating Indian Narratives on Global Challenges’. India's scientists believe the time is ripe for the country to write a new narrative for Indian science and tap into its potential as a global science leader.

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Geographies in DepthFourth Industrial RevolutionGeo-Economics and Politics
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