WiHo-Editors: How would you describe the mission of your institution?
Saradindu Bhaduri: Our university is committed to promote teaching and research in the various evolving interdisciplinary fields of science with a focus on the realities of India and South Asia. In concordance, our Centre aims to contribute to the various branches of Science Policy Studies, including Science, Technology and Innovation Studies (STIS), Science, Technology and Society (STS); and Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI), to develop a perspective of the global South. We conduct our research primarily through the doctoral and pre-doctoral (M.Phil-level) research programmes. In recent years, however, international collaborations have emerged as a significant component of our research too.
WiHo-Editors: Which of your institution’s activities have received the most attention during the last years within the scientific community or the general public?
Saradindu Bhaduri: The scientific community has taken note of our research on “grassroots innovations” and “waste management” in the recent years. We have also helped the network of innovation scholars in India to consolidate and grow through our popular e-forum and social media platforms on Twitter, Facebook and research blogs. These outreach activities have earned the Centre high rank in the Global Go To Think Tank Index Report 2017. The Centre was given the charge of organising the 4th IndiaLICS International Conference in 2017 (the largest network of innovation studies scholars in India), which was attended by 150+ scholars, and public policy analysts.
WiHo-Editors: Which projects are most important and relevant in the international context?
Saradindu Bhaduri: As mentioned, contributing to the global south perspectives on various issues of science technology and innovation studies is a main aim of the Centre. Besides our works on bottom up innovations, our researches on E-waste management, role of digital technologies in development, and responsible science, technology and innovation hold specific importance in this regard.
WiHo-Editors: How would you describe the research on Science, Technology and Society (STS) if compared internationally? What are the strengths? What is missing?
Saradindu Bhaduri: The main strength of the STS scholarship is undoubtedly its intrinsically interdisciplinary character. This has ensured a wave of young researchers joining the field in recent years from a variety of disciplines and fields of studies. The field is therefore never short of energy and enthusiasm required to cover the ever-growing complex nature of problems and issues associated with science and technology. There are two main limitations, in my view, which need to be redressed: First, it is still dominated by discussions on “high technology” in “developed economies”. This slant needs a course correction as ‘S&T issues’ takes deeper roots in the developmental policies and practices in countries of the global South where the majority of the global population lives. Secondly, how to develop a cogent framework of research methodology remains a challenge, which, in my view, hampers effective dialogue and communication among researchers in this area.
WiHo-Editors: What are the main topics that research should address in the next years within the area of STS?
- In my view, the STS scholarship should relate more to developmental debates. Aspiration for higher consumption of modern technologies is growing among the neo-middle class in the countries of the global South. Governments in these countries are also increasingly committing themselves to high technologies. Due to high population densities and intensive agriculture, many technologies considered to be sustainable in the West, face several conflicts with natural resources and occupational habits (having implications for issues like energy security, food security, water security, and health security) in the countries of the global South. Local, and community level (socio-technical) responses to these challenges in this regard should find greater place in STS research, in this context.
- Inter-country transfer of standards and regulatory institutions (mostly from developed to developing countries) has become quite common these days. ‘Regulatory Science’, on the other hand, insists on context specificity of these institutions. The scholarships on science policy and STS need more engagements with these issues.
- Role of digital technologies, and data security in development is another area, which in my view deserves more attention in STS research in coming days.
- Finally, science communication research needs greater attention. STS scholarship has done well to emphasise on the limitations of the so-called “White Male Science” and “Laboratory Science”. Today, however, opposition to “science” runs into the risk of supporting obscurantist beliefs. The intrinsic value of science, which encourages “observation and experimentation” based results need support from the STS scholarship. There is a fine balance to be made here, but the STS needs to explicitly engage itself with these issues.
WiHo-Editors: What are the main topics of research on STS that should be addressed using international cooperation/comparison?
Saradindu Bhaduri: Drawing multiple perspectives is important for any research on STS today. Sometime, these expertise and perspectives are difficult to be available within the boundaries of any single country. I therefore believe, even at the cost of sounding generalist, that international cooperation is essential in almost all kinds of STS research today.
WiHo-Editors: If you had one free wish for the next budget negotiations, what would you opt for?
Saradindu Bhaduri: Unfortunately, I do not have much scope to exercise such ‘wishes’ in our system. However, if I had, I would have asked for a more generous funding for post-doctoral opportunities to attract and retain younger talents in our Centre.
WiHo-Editors: How should the profile of your institution develop within the next ten years? What are the challenges that you expect the institution to be confronted with?
Saradindu Bhaduri: I would like our Centre to expand in terms of faculty size and research areas in the coming decade. I would like to see a more intense engagement between social scientists and natural scientists on the issues of STS in the coming years, and I believe our Centre can play a pivotal role in shaping and fostering such engagement. However, the governance of higher education is becoming too “technocratic” in many places (countries). The spirit of academic freedom to ask critical questions about policies and pathways of modern technologies should be retained for a productive future of the STS scholarship.