India not adequately harnessing potential of women in science: President Kovind

PTI Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India Oct 07, 2018, 08.26 AM(IST)

File photo: President Ram Nath Kovind. Photograph:( Zee News Network )

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President Kovind noted that of the 3,446 scientists working at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and development organisation, only 632 or 18.3 per cent are women.

President Ram Nath Kovind on Saturday expressed concern over the low participation of women in higher science, saying the country is not adequately harnessing their scientific potential and it is a collective responsibility to overcome this social and systemic challenge.

He noted that of the 3,446 scientists working at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, a premier national research and development organisation, only 632 or 18.3 per cent are women.

"In a week when women scientists have won Nobel prizes for physics and for chemistry, this is a telling statistic. It is a reminder of the scientific potential of our daughters that we are not adequately harnessing. This is both a social and systemic challenge but it is our collective responsibility to overcome it," the President said.

He was speaking at the inauguration of the fourth India International Science Festival (IISF) here.

The President said that science is done best when it is a collaborative venture, with resources including funding resources and facilities being shared.

This is the era of partnerships between research centres and universities. He urged the scientific community to mentor and open its doors to budding researchers and students in universities.

The President said that the role of science and scientific innovation in national developmental agenda is expanding day by day.

Mentioning the patent applications by Indian start-ups, Kovind said, "In 2017, patent applications by Indian start-ups rose to 909. This was a 15-fold increase from the number in 2016, when it was just 61." 

In 2018, India's R&D investments will amount to an appreciable USD 83.27 billion. The government has announced the Prime Ministers Research

Fellowship Scheme. It will promote development through innovation and has a budget of Rs 1,650 crore for seven years beginning 2018-19, he noted. 
"These are exciting times for science in India. The resources are now available. It is for our talent pool to respond," he said.

The President also informed that "between 2012 and 2017, 649 Indian scientists have returned from abroad to pursue research opportunities at home. In the previous five years, only 243 scientists had come back."

He said that budding researchers and students look to senior scientists for guidance, support and access to laboratories and equipment. With such generosity of spirit and of intellect, Indian science will carry much greater weight. And it will move closer to building a best-in-class ecosystem.

Kovind said that science has always been a part of Indian culture. 

"Centuries ago, our ancestors were uncovering the secrets of mathematics and the concept of the zero. They were applying the lessons of science in fields as far apart as medicine and metallurgy. From the Green Revolution to our space programme to the creation of a thriving biotech and pharmaceutical industry, science has driven our post -1947 modernisation," the President said. 

In the first quarter of the 21st century, in the age of robotics and precision manufacture, of bioinformatics and gene editing, of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Artificial Intelligence, it is time for a quantum jump, he noted.

The President said the country cannot make that jump "without converting science into a mass movement and without promoting tinkering and innovation as an everyday activity in our labs, our universities and even our schools". 

"Jugaad, cut- paste experiments and frugal innovation have their role. Even so, if we are to transform India into a middle-income economy and an advanced industrial power, we need to upgrade the engines of knowledge creation. 

"Science and technology are not a mere add-on. Their cross-cutting nature and role in every field and in all our flagship programmes and developmental efforts have to be appreciated," he said.

The President also termed IISF as the 'Kumbh' of Science. 

"UP has been famous for Kumbh, and it will be now known for Science Kumbh as well," he said.

Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Union Science minister Harshvardhan also spoke on the occasion. Students from various schools and colleges participated in the event.