In a democracy, publicly funded research should be made comprehensible to the public. Given the rapid changes in the Indian economic and political scenario, it is important for research institutions to reach out to different target groups in order to assure that the relevance and importance of the institute is clearly understood by the voting public.
Workshop on Media and Communication
Except for a handful of scientists like Prof Yashpal, Prof Narlikar, Prof Bala, etc. scientists in India do not contribute to media. And indeed, it is not a mandate for Indian scientists – their scientific value is measured in number of papers and impact factors.
However, socially and politically, the value of Indian scientists is determined by the public awareness of science done in India.
But then, Media that should be reporting Indian science, does not have personnel trained enough to deal with the complex terminology of science. They do not appreciate the rigour and thus when they do report Indian science, quite often, it contains gross inaccuracies.
Further, most science reports published in newspapers are provided by international news agencies and they contain only science done elsewhere. This has led to a common perception that not much science is done in India. So when funds for research are reduced, Indian public feels that it is justified.
Scientifically trained media professionals like Jayram and Ramachandran also are far too few. So research organisations cannot depend outside help for accurate and credible reporting of science.
Skill building of scientists and personnel for media and communication outreach must be undertaken to overcome these limitations. The short term workshops on media productions help scientists mediate their science to the public, directly.
Indian scientists have not contributed adequately to journals such as Journal of Visualised Experiments. They do not use video abstracts even when some journals offer that opportunity. Moreover, though many journals accept video as supplementary materials, quite often this opportunity too, is missed by Indian scientists. This can easily be changed by workshops on video productions.
Though I have made some institutional videos for scientific organisations earlier, I do not any more undertake such projects that can be easily executed by others. it would be more fruitful to strengthen the hands of the existing staff to undertake such tasks, given the user friendly media technologies available today.
However, I am willing to take up the more challenging task of communicating any specific research work done by specific labs or on specific topics. A combination of scientific understanding on the one hand, and social needs on the other, is needed for executing such productions. This is not found in most media producers in India and therefore my services are needed. And I will fulfil this need.
I also undertake projects related to Strategic communication on behalf of scientific organisations. The process involves an analysis of the communication needs of the organisation, and a brainstorming session with the top management on the present strengths, weakness and opportunities. A detailed list of recommendations with specific actionable points would be provided.
Drawing up media strategies for research institutions involves –
– a one week background study of the organisation and the papers emanating from there,
– a short two-day visit to meet the Director and to discuss the issues with heads of departments and PR/communication officer.
– a brief presentation will be made on the third day summarising the key points for feedback from Director and limited staff.
– a written report with recommendations will be delivered within 15 days.
I offer consultancy to set up a science media centre capable of providing print, radio, television and internet media content. Setting up the Science Media Centre in IISER Pune has given me insights into setting up similar, if necessary smaller media labs and studios in research institutions.
The capabilities in these directions can be examined and assessed using the menu Past Projects, Consultancies.
My contact details can be found here.