Novel initiative by DST to encourage science communication by students

Science communication-Optimized
The programme offers cash prize of Rs.1,00,000 each for 100 best articles by PhD students and Rs.10,000 each for 20 best articles by post-doctoral fellows. — Photo: Samer Daboul

DST is set to launch an initiative to encourage and equip PhD scholars and post-doctoral fellows with skills to communicate science with lay people. It is planning to hand out cash prize each year for 100 best articles by PhD students and 20 best articles by post-doctoral fellows on February 28, 2019, the National Science Day. The programme allows students to write only about their research.

In an effort to encourage and equip PhD scholars and post-doctoral fellows with skills to communicate science with lay people, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) plans to reward students who write about their research as popular science articles. The articles can either be submitted to DST directly or published in newspapers.

The Augmenting Writing Skills for Articulating Research (AWSAR) initiative will each year reward 100 best articles by PhD students with cash prize of Rs.1,00,000 each and a certificate of appreciation. The reward for post-doctoral fellows will Rs.10,000 each and a certificate of appreciation for 20 best articles.

According to Dr. Rashmi Sharma, scientist at DST and in-charge of the AWSAR programme, DST is planning to reward the first batch of winners on February 28, 2019, the National Science Day. DST is expecting at least 5,000 articles from PhD students and about 1,000 articles from post-doctoral fellows. DST will soon make a call for article (1,000-1,500 words) submission.

“There is a yawning gap between research being done in labs across the country and what the public knows. The intent of the programme is to inculcate popular science writing skills and bring science closer to the society,” says Dr. Sharma. Students will be encouraged to write at least one popular science article during the tenancy of their scholarship.

“Science communication is an important activity for scientists and is a part of doing science. Yet, the importance of communicating with lay audience is not emphasised early on and those who do it are not rewarded,” says Prof. Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, DST. “We want to change this by producing a group of people who can translate their research work into popular science articles.”

“We have very few science journalists in India and newspapers in general do not publish stories of science done here in India though they carry stores of research carried out in other countries. I personally know many researchers here doing research similar to the ones reported from abroad,” he says.

Prof. Sharma is of the view that writing popular articles related to their research will allow PhD students and post-doctoral fellows, who are narrowly focussed in their research areas, to gain a wider view and gain insights into how their research will address the challenges and needs of the society.

The programme allows students to write only about their research. “Students understand their research better and so will have to build on the core competence to communicate their work to lay people through popular articles,” Prof. Sharma says. “This initiative will only complement and not duplicate the traditional model of science reporting by journalists. We need both models of science communication.”

Correction

The best 100 articles by PhD scholars will get Rs.10,000 each and the best three entries will get Rs.1,00,000, Rs.50,000 and Rs.25,000 respectively. Similarly, 20 best articles from post-doctoral fellow will get Rs.10,000 each and one best entry will get Rs.1,00,000.

Published in The Hindu on June 2, 2018

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