President Ram Nath Kovind on Saturday rued that there was not adequate representation of women in higher science and called for speedy efforts to overcome the problem.

"There are 3,446 scientists working at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research. But, of them, only 632, or 18.3 percent, 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. It is our collective responsibility to overcome it”, he said.

Formally inaugurating the four-day India International Science Festival, which began here yesterday, he also called for converting science into a mass movement and promoting tinkering and innovation as an everyday activity in laboratories, universities and 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,” the President said.

Further, he noted that science had always been a part of Indian culture and it was time there was a quantum jump. “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. Today, 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 said.

Besides, he observed that India’s R&D investments were on the rise and the government had announced the Prime Minister’s Research Fellowship Scheme. “It (the fellowship scheme) will promote development through innovation and has a budget of Rs 1,650 crore for seven years beginning 2018-19. These are exciting times for science in India. The resources are now available. It is for our talent pool to respond”.

The President also urged the scientific community to mentor and open its doors to budding researchers and students in universities. “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. It will move closer to building a best-in-class ecosystem”, he said

Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan said the government had been working to encourage scientific endeavours across the country. “The Start-Up and Stand-Up programmes are helping people with bright ideas to realise their dreams without any reservation.”

(India Science Wire)