The Ministry of Science and Technology recently announced the initiation of the consultation process for the new Science, Technology and Innovation Policy 2020. Notably, the consultation process which started recently, seems to be very inclusive as it is described (more on that below). For those interested, there is a virtual town hall meeting, as the launch event for public consultations, happening later today, from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm IST – more details here.
Reproducing the PIB notification:
“The Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India (Office of PSA) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST) have jointly initiated a decentralized, bottom-up, and inclusive process for the formulation of a new national Science Technology and Innovation Policy (STIP 2020).
The fifth S&T policy of India is being formulated at a crucial juncture when India and the world are tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. This is only the latest among the many important changes in the past decade that have necessitated formulation of a new outlook and strategy for Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI). As the crisis changes the world, the new policy with its decentralized manner of formation will reorient STI in terms of priorities, sectoral focus, the way research is done, and technologies are developed and deployed for larger socio-economic welfare.
The STIP 2020 formulation process is organised into 4 highly interlinked tracks: Track I involves an extensive public and expert consultation process through Science Policy Forum – a dedicated platform for soliciting inputs from larger public and expert pool during and after the policy drafting process. Track II comprises experts-driven thematic consultations to feed evidence-informed recommendations into the policy drafting process. Twenty-one (21) focused thematic groups have been constituted for this purpose. Track III involves consultations with Ministries and States, while Track IV constitutes apex level multi-stakeholder consultation. For Track III nodal officers are being nominated in States and in Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government of India for extensive intra-state and intra-department consultation and for Track IV consultation with institutional leadership, industry bodies, global partners and inter-ministerial and inter-state consultations represented at the highest levels are being carried out.
The consultation processes on different tracks have already started and are running in parallel. The Track-II thematic group (TG) consultation started with a series of information sessions last week. During the information sessions, Dr Akhilesh Gupta, Head of Policy Coordination and Programme Monitoring Division of DST, made the presentations and steered the discussions. The sessions were attended by around 130 members of the 21 thematic groups along with 25 Policy Research Fellows and scientists of DST and Office of PSA.
“The STI Policy for the new India will also integrate the lessons of COVID-19 including building of an Atmanirbhar Bharat (self- reliance) through ST&I by leveraging our strengths in R&D, Design, S&T workforce and institutions, huge markets, demographic dividend, diversity and data,” said Prof Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, DST
The six-month process involves broad-based consultations with all stakeholders within and beyond the scientific ecosystem of the country –including academia, industry, government, global partners, young scientists and technologists, civic bodies, and general public.
A Secretariat with in-house policy knowledge and data support unit, built with a cadre of DST-STI Policy fellows, has been set up at DST (Technology Bhavan) to coordinate the complete process and interplays between the four tracks.“
The Consultation Process
As is evident, the consultation process seems to ground-up, with public input being collected prior to a first draft of the policy. It is also interesting that an “open independent collaborative platform”, as the Science Policy Forum describes itself, is being used to facilitate this process. As per the website, its founders include DST-Centre for Policy Research, Indian Institute of Science (DST-CPR-IISc), Sustainable Water Futures Programme, and IndiaBioScience. The website provides a brief overview of previous STI Policies (see here), an explanation of the Science Policy Ecosystem in India (see here), as well as a discussion forum (see here). These seem to be very useful entry points for those who may want to contribute and are looking for more information and context. However, the question does arise as to whether this effectively acts as a non-governmental body acting as a host for the consultation process? And if so, would that be a potentially problematic precedent? Or perhaps this is acting only as a venue, and the actual consultations etc will also be reflected on a government website as well? Those with more knowledge and insight could perhaps comment on this.
Coming back to the policy: Dr K Vijay Raghavan, Principal Scientific Advisor to the Prime Minister, has noted in an interview (here), that “Fundamental research is the core of science. We need that balance on applied and basic research in different fields. This would be at the core of the policy,” He also notes that the importance of action on climate change, environment and sustainable development.
In an interview (here) with Chagun Basha, who is listed on the Founding and Management team page of the Science Policy Forum, he talks a bit more about STIP 2020. He mentions that around 4500 consultation inputs were received in the previous policy (STIP 2013) and the aim this time is to get substantially more consultative inputs. He also mentions the indicative list of the 21 themes:
1.Research 2.Education 3.Innovation 4.Financing STI 5.Entrepreneurship
6.Data and regulatory framework 7.Capacity Building 8.Access to knowledge and resources 9.Equity and Inclusion 10.System Interconnectedness
11.Mega Sciences (Blue sky) 12.International S&T Engagement and STI Diplomacy 13.Policy and Program Linkage 14.STI Governance 15.STI Policy Governance
16.Strategic Technologies 17.Disruptive and Futuristic Technologies 18.Sustainable Technologies 19.Health 20.Agriculture, Water and Food Security
21.Energy, Environment and Climate Change.
To see where we can go, we should see where we’ve come so far. And a quick look at the 2013 STIP shows some significant issues.
As Mathews had noted in his post analysing the 2013 STIP, “The Policy intends to position India among the top five global scientific powers by 2020, facilitate S&T-based high-risk innovations through new mechanisms; facilitate partnerships among stake holders for scaling successes of R&D; and trigger changes in the mindset and value systems to recognize, respect and reward performances which create wealth from S&T derived knowledge. It engrains the principle of social inclusion and private participation for achieving its objectives. It also sets out the need for nurturing a conducive STI ecosystem”. Some of the other STIP 2013 goals for 2020 were: ‘increase global share of publications from 3.5% to 7% by 2020’; ‘four fold increase in publishing in top 1% of journals’; and ‘increase FTE personnel by two-thirds 1.54 to 2.50 lacs’.
In addition to the 2013 STIP, there were also various connected policy documents with overlapping mandates, such as the National IPR Policy 2016, MSME Policy Statement, Startup India Action Plan 2016, National Innovation and Startup Policy 2019, Technology Vision 2035 etc.
Without going into each issue individually, or the various reasons behind it – it is evident that India has not done nearly as much as it set out to do over the last 7 years. It is important that the 2020 STIP does not become yet another policy document to look back and lament on, when the next STIP comes about. A workable and accountable action plan would be crucial to this. While a bottom up, inclusive and wide consultation process is a good sign, it is only but a start – one that hopefully is indicative of things to come.
A reminder again – of the launch of the consultative process through the virtual town hall meeting this evening – details here.
Thanks to Vedangini Bisht for her input on this post!