The Ministry of Science and Technology has drafted a policy on the lines of the mandatory corporate social responsibility model for the country's scientific community, with a senior official saying this was necessitated by scientists' "isolation" from societal needs. The "Scientific Social Responsibility" policy, under consultation for a year now, has been finalised and will soon be sent to the Union cabinet for approval.
As per the draft policy, every "knowledge worker" has to devote at least 10 person-days each year to SSR activity, which can include giving lectures in schools and colleges, sharing infrastructure, conducting skill development workshops, and coming up with solutions to local environmental or health issues. Beneficiaries can include students, school and college teachers, local bodies, communities, women's groups, NGOs and MSMEs, among others.
"While the knowledge worker would be given wide latitude in choosing the SSR activity, it should necessarily pertain to the transmission of scientific knowledge to society," says the draft policy.
Prof Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary at the Department of Science and Technology, said: "The idea is to create linkages between science and society. Our institutes have certain resources at their disposal, both infrastructural as well as knowledge-based, and these resources can be used to develop new direct interfaces with society. While scientists may do this already, it is arbitrary and lacks structure. We want to institutionalise this exercise."
Prof Sharma said scientists have often "worked in silos" and been "isolated from societal needs". "With increased exposure to society, they will also gain knowledge and the kind of research and inventions that is required in the country right now. This is something that has now been borne out by the Covid-19 pandemic which has shown us how a specific problem can actually provide an impetus to science," he added.
The policy envisages an SSR monitoring system in each institution to assess institutional projects and individual activity. Institutes are also to publish their SSR activity as part of their annual reports. Individual SSR work is to be given due weightage in "performance evaluation of the knowledge worker, such as the performance-based assessment system the output of university and college teachers".
"In the near future, this monitoring and grading can become a part of the institution's ranking," said Prof Sharma.
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