The Department of Science and Technology has released a Scientific Social Responsibility Policy. The main aim is to transfer the benefits of science to meet societal needs. India will be the first country to implement such a policy.
In a bid to strengthen the connect of science and our society, India is positioning itself to be the first country in the world to implement a Scientific Social Responsibility (SSR) Policy. This policy will be analogous to the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) – a management concept that integrates social and environmental concerns into their business and operations in order to achieve a balance of economic, environmental and social imperatives while living up to the expectations of stakeholders. Similarly, the SSR policy aims at providing better access to scientific knowledge to the general public and using the benefits of science to solve societal problems. The main ideology being that since most scientific research is performed with the help of taxpayer’s money, the scientific community has an obligation to ‘give back’ to society.
The Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB) is a premier organization, working under the Department of Science and Technology, for funding basic scientific research in the country. They have devised and have made available the draft of the innovative policy on their website for public inputs. Having built on earlier policies that include the Scientific Policy Resolution of 1958, Technology Policy Statement of 1983, Science and Technology Policy of 2003, and Science, Technology and Innovation Policy of 2013, the objectives of the policy include – to effectively utilize the R&D infrastructure and expertise of SERB grantee to benefit other S&T stakeholders and the society and to embed a participatory, inclusive and sustainable culture of social responsibility. The draft defines SSR as “the ethical obligation of knowledge workers in all fields of science and technology to voluntarily contribute their knowledge and resources to the widest spectrum of stakeholders in society, in a spirit of service and conscious reciprocity”. Individual scientists or knowledge workers will be required to devote at least 10 person-days of SSR per year for imparting scientific knowledge to society. It will also provide a mechanism of incentives for outreach activities and will give credit to knowledge workers/scientists for individual SSR activities in their annual performance appraisal and evaluation.
A forthcoming UN report has also stated that only science can help the world achieve sustainable development. The SSR policy seems to have been formulated at the right time. A national portal will be set up especially to implement this policy in order to take note of societal needs which requires scientific solutions and as a platform for reporting SSR activities.