New academy, with a focus on science education and outreach, hopes to build a network of young Indian scientists.
India’s first young scientists’ academy will hold its first open call for membership applications this August. The Indian National Young Academy of Science (INYAS) is an initiative of the Indian National Science Academy (INSA), first voted into being on December 20th, 2014. The initial twenty members of INYAS were drawn from INSA Young Scientist Awardees. Since being selected in May, these twenty have been laying the groundwork for an academy that aims to amplify the voices of scientists under the age of forty.
The past fifteen years have seen a worldwide trend towards national academies that connect early career scientists with one another, beginning with Die Junge Akademie in Germany in the year 2000. INYAS takes its inspiration from the five-year-old Global Young Academy (GYA). The focus of the GYA is on policy, education and outreach, in so far as these areas concern the growing body of scientists in their thirties who strive to gain a foothold in the research establishment and are keen to take science beyond the lab.
For INYAS, the initial focus will be on science education and outreach at the pre-college level, as well as building strong networks between young scientists in India. Twenty members will be inducted every year, with each individual having a tenure of five years. Consequently, the maximum size that INYAS plans to reach is one hundred. These hundred will attend a general body meeting each year, vote annually for a core committee of seven, and participate in projects related to one of the central interests of INYAS.
As its membership grows, INYAS plans to start science camps for school-going children, as well as create explanatory videos for scientific problems in everyday life that can be used as teaching aids by parents and teachers. The focus of these initiatives is not necessarily to encourage all children to go into science, but to encourage “science as a way of life,” in the words of Anindita Bhadra, assistant professor at IISER Kolkata and one of the founding members of INYAS.
“I think we’re born scientists, and then our education system kills that,” explains Bhadra. Children start out questioning their universe and building novel hypotheses, but the question “why” tends to get drilled out of them by an educational system that favours obedience and rote memorization over innovation. Once lost, a questioning nature is hard to regain. Bhadra claims that retaining that ability to question and critique is essential for living a scientific life, which one does not need to be a scientist to do.
In a like manner, INYAS plans to recruit outside volunteers in the future as science bloggers for their website. They aim to compile popular science articles from elsewhere, and also to generate new content that breaks down scientific ideas for the public. A third tier would be translating popular science articles into vernacular languages. “Especially in North India a lot of schools still teach in the vernacular,” says Bhadra. INYAS hopes to ultimately reach young people in semi-urban and rural areas, through online and print vernacular publications.
Finally, INYAS hopes to facilitate networking between young scientists. In initial stages, this will be accomplished through building databases of young researchers and organizing small meetings where early career scientists can interact with and learn from each other.
Applications to INYAS will be open come August 2015 on the INYAS website to scientific researchers in India who have a PhD and are under forty. The application will be similar to the GYA application, with nomination procedures similar to the INSA Young Scientist Award except that here only one nomination is required. Although scientific publications will be considered, INYAS is primarily looking for members who can also demonstrate past activities related to science popularization and science and society. The application will include short write ups about which focus area of INYAS the applicant is most interested in, and how they plan to contribute.
Raghavendra Gadagkar, professor at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and president of INSA, is positive about the future of INYAS. “Because of the establishment of IISERs, the new IIT’s and new Central Universities in India, we now have a very large number of extremely bright and active young scientists in [the age group of 30-45 years]. We believe that INYAS will empower them to contribute their might to the growth of Indian Science.”For more details, visit the INYAS Facebook page, download a background file on INYAS or email Anindita Bhadra, abhadra [at] iiserkol.ac.in.