N. Anil Kumar
M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation
Kerala’s current S&T policy culture projects an overlapping “academic” and “civic” pattern picture with the “industrial-market” culture and “Political-bureaucratic” power in the background. The science and evidence gathering through a synergized culture of these four patterns with need-based research & technology development approach can make Kerala a developed society. Following two suggestions are made with this rationale:
First, launch a new Mission on a similar line of the ongoing four missions in the Re-build Kerala initiative. A major objective of this mission has to be re-orientation and re-positioning the way we do and govern the S&T affairs in the state. We may call this Mission Kerala Science & Technology Reorientation Initiative (Kerala STRI) or Kerala Science, Research and Innovations Initiative (Kerala SRI) to reflect its purpose! Among the priority sectors for sustainable development of Kerala, one that needs urgent attention is Biodiversity Access & Benefit Sharing.
S&T interventions in the above four areas that led with the shifts mentioned below can make Kerala one of the most developed bio-diverse states of India.
Second, constitute a Science & Technology Commission under the umbrella of the new Science & Technology Mission. This may be done by expanding the structure, composition, terms and scope of the current Kerala Biotechnology Commission with the purpose to promote all foundational and translational science and technologies and to deliver high-quality science-based outcomes. The remodeled commission shall have the authority to constitute professional groups in the priority sectors by attracting internationally acclaimed scientists, business experts, and intellectuals. These thematic groups shall make an independent review of the S&T strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to each of the prioritized sector to achieve a high impact delivery.
Following three key lessons to be learned to guide this goal:
Fixing the above lessons and taking some major shifts can help to achieve the desired high impact delivery goal. The required shifts are:
(i) A shift from the current routine of more papers and patents to more impacts and interest (Applied research & industry partnership);
(ii) A shift from an ego-system approach to an ecosystem approach to science and evidence gathering that ensure strong consortium mode of implementation and stakeholder engagement including rural innovators and researchers (Civic centric research & system approach),
(iii) A shift from Science for Science sake approach to Science for Societal sake by organizing periodical Lab to Land and Land to Lab programmes (need-based research & technology development);
(iv) Shift from a closed mind to an open mind approach to welcome global expertise from internationally reputed research institutions and universities to access our biodiversity and associated knowledge (Access and Benefit Sharing) and
(v) A shift from shallow governance to strong and coordinated governance of science and technology development and its applications (Democratic- Political-bureaucratic policy).
These shifts cannot be easily done unless there is strong commitment, and political will to move towards a science-led society goal with clearly identified and scientifically sound targets. This government has a proven will and hopefully this will lead into improved coordination between departments and an enhanced investment in making transformative changes in Kerala’s science, technology and innovation development.