Indian Science in the Media
Just a few days ago I finished a book that was supposed to show ‘how Indian science is taking over the world’. I was hoping that the book will be full of fascinating and thought-provoking scientific discoveries and inventions. Instead many pages were spent exploring irrational beliefs that are wide-spread in India. I was disheartened, of course.
This is not to say that the book should not have picked up on these important beliefs but the (misleading) subtitle led me to think that may be Indian science had really taken the strides to leave the discussion of astrology and homeopathy to only a few pages of a book on science. What was I thinking!?
Here’s a reality check: I searched for ‘science’ on the Times of India website (It’s built such that I can’t even give you a hyperlink to the results of my search. Sorry!). In the first five pages of results there was not a single news article about a discovery or invention. Instead, I found psuedoscientific terms like astrology and spirituality in many of those results (even one where the Bombay HC ruled: Astrology is a Science, but we’ll get to that some other time).
Same with the Hindustan Times. I searched for ‘science’ (fortunately, this time I can give you a link to the search results here.) No Indian science being referred to till the 19th result (which says lab at Kalina to test bulletproof jackets) and then there is silence on this topic for many pages of results ahead. Psuedoscience seems to have been kept under tighter lids here (and the HT even published a critical review of that book I was talking about!).
Even the Hindu, whose science coverage is the most respectable amongst all Indian newspaper, did not have more than a couple of stories about Indian science (see link).
The only place I know where you can go to read about recent research findings from India is the Nature India website. Unfortunately, their articles are not written for a general audience. There is Current Science which is, again, not written for the public although some of the articles can easily be published for a wider audience.
There aren’t many Indian science magazines either. Scientific American India started in August 2005 and stopped in June 2007. Down to Earth is probably the only regular magazine which has survived a significant number of years, and despite what it claims in its about section I haven’t met any Indian who knew about its existence. The most recent entry is Brainwave which is magazine for school children.
Either there is very little science of value being done in India or the media is just not interested in publishing science. What is surprising though is that when an NRI writes a book with a misleading title about Indian science, it gets rave reviews.