New Delhi, Sept. 10: Pakistan’s science academy has sought collaborative scientific networks across the subcontinent through which, among its other objectives, students in Pakistan may receive lessons via video from the Indian Institutes of Technology and other institutions.
The first summit of South Asian science academies concluded here on Saturday with eight academy presidents deciding to meet yearly and follow up on proposals that range from faculty exchange and distance education to joint research programmes.
But the Indian National Science Academy (INSA), the summit’s host, appeared to dither on proposals from Pakistani delegates that the summit’s concluding “declaration” should outline at least one activity that may be implemented quickly, within the next one year.
“Distance learning is something we can implement quickly and easily,” said Atta-ur-Rahman, president of the Pakistan Academy of Sciences, who was federal science minister and science adviser to the government during the reign of Pervez Musharraf.
Rahman, whose grandfather was the vice-chancellor of Delhi University during the 1930s, said Pakistan had over the past decade established a network for distance education that now delivers over 1,300 interactive lectures to university students each year.
He told the summit that the academies should build a database of scientists from each country willing to participate in such distance-education initiatives.
On the sidelines of the three-day summit, Bangladesh academy president Shamsher Ali, a physicist, agreed to deliver lessons on quantum mechanics to university students in Pakistan via video links.
“We are interested (in the distance-education proposal), but we need to discuss this with our own educational institutions,” a senior Indian scientist and INSA fellow told The Telegraph. “We’ve agreed to consider this, but INSA can’t decide on behalf of institutions.”
However, INSA fellows and senior scientists at the summit asserted that they were enthusiastic about science collaboration in South Asia. “Without any doubt, science and technology will be a bridge of tomorrow to connect South Asian countries,” said Samir Brahmachari, director-general of India’s Council of Scientific and Industrial Research.
The science academies of Afghanistan, Africa, Iran, Mauritius, Nepal and Sri Lanka also participated in the summit that resolved to work on common concerns relating to energy, infectious diseases, science education, the low proportion of women in science, and climate change.
“We’re looking for guidance in medicine, agriculture, and geosciences,” Ahmad Shah Omar, director of medical research with the Afghanistan Academy of Sciences, said on the summit’s sidelines.
Rahman told the summit that Pakistan’s science academy would offer 40 scholarships to PhD-level researchers — five each to the seven countries at the summit and to Africa — for three months of study in Pakistan.
He also proposed that the academies should organise short-term and long-term exchange programmes for scientists as well as initiate consultations on policies on common problems.
“We’re comrades-in-arms against common problems of hunger, poverty, infectious diseases and ignorance,” Rahman said. “But we need clearly defined programmes, deadlines and funding — without that such initiatives remain only hopes and aspirations.”