The Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India (OPSA) organised a day-long summit titled “Dialogue 2023: Expanding Science and Technology Horizons” on 18 November 2023 in Bengaluru.
Recognising the importance of science, technology and innovation in addressing socioeconomic challenges and existential threats like climate change, the summit focused on ethical challenges related to disruptive technologies, the role of international collaborations, and the need to recognise diverse knowledge systems.
Prof. G. Rangarajan, IISC’s director, highlighted the importance of such summits in bringing together stakeholders from the larger science and technology ecosystem to deliberate on contemporary policy matters.
“As India’s pre-eminent science institute, IISc has played a notable role in knowledge support to the government, in national science and technology missions, and in instituting policies and programmes,” he said.
These programmes include the Indian Science Technology and Engineering facilities Map (I-STEM), the Bengaluru Science and Technology (BeST) cluster, the India Urban Data Exchange (IUDX) platform, AI and Robotics Technology Park (ARTPARK), Policy Analytics & Insights Unit of the OPSA, and efforts to develop high-quality health datasets in collaboration with ICMR.
Prof Ajay Kumar Sood, Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India and National Science Chair Professor at the Department of Physics, IISc, spoke about the immense potential of emerging technologies like quantum computing and communication, during the event.
“India has advanced significantly on its developmental goals,” he said. “Shaping technology futures involves not only technology development but also their adoption in various sectors.”
He also stressed on the need to take into consideration ethical values and sustainability while adopting these technologies.
The second session of the summit looked at the ethical challenges and principles related to disruptive technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI). The conversation focused on the intersection of technology, ethics and society, and drew attention to the need for the regulation of emerging technologies.
Mr. Abhishek Singh, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), highlighted India’s digital growth and the impact of digital services like UPI, during one of the sessions. This was followed by a panel discussion on approaches to enhancing global technology competitiveness, and balancing international cooperation with national priorities when it comes to technology development.
During the session on “Science, Technology and Society,” speakers, citing the handloom industry, highlighted the need to move away from the classical view of hierarchy of science above other types of knowledge, and recognise the importance of indigenous knowledge systems.
Policy gaps, potential pathways to make traditional knowledge more accessible and the historical lack of recognition of women as knowledge holders and creators were also discussed.
Prof. Shubha Tole, Senior Professor & Dean, Graduate Studies, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, spoke on “Public Perception of Science”.
“It is critical that the public perceives science as an important and valuable enterprise,” Prof. Tole said and suggested ways to improve science outreach at institutions. She also stressed on the need for scientists to think “beyond outreach” and engage meaningfully with people about the journey and process of science.