For marketing tie-ups

Print edition : November 05, 2010

T. Ramasami: V.P.'score strength lies in the design and development of science communication products.-NAGARA GOPAL

DR T. RAMASAMI is Secretary of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) under which Vigyan Prasar functions. Excerpts of an interview he gave Frontline:

To what extent have the objectives that were set out for Vigyan Prasar been fulfilled?

Vigyan Prasar was established with the following objectives: establishment of an expert system for identification and development of content; development of knowledge networks in the area of science and communication; selection and deployment of the right communication and delivery system; and undertaking activities that communicate the joy of pursuing science.

As far as delivery of designed objectives, we are reasonably happy. So far, the organisation has focussed largely on child-centric programmes and segments of society which remained uninitiated to a large extent. I have been able to seek some responses about V.P.'s work from the youth at the school level. I must say that there has been a favourable perception among students for its products.

Which activities have really succeeded? How can these be capitalised upon to make V.P. more visible?

Vigyan Prasar is a small organisation and is engaged in a number of activities. One of its strengths is content generation and the publishing of printed materials. Particularly in subjects like astronomy and various topics in physics, V.P. brought out good and valuable publications. DREAM 2047 is an excellent outreach material.

The science clubs of V.P. form an excellent outreach, which are sought after by schools. Some of the video and audio-visual materials developed by V.P. have attracted wide appreciation. Since V.P. does not enjoy a large marketing network, these products have not yet penetrated the market. V.P.'s core strength lies in design and development of science communication products. It has to develop synergies with other organisations and agencies to deliver its strength into the community.

The National Council for Science and Technology Communication (NCSTC), a wing of the DST, and V.P. are engaged in similar activities. Is it necessary to demarcate their roles to achieve the goals of science dissemination?

The NCSTC and V.P. are two complementing arms, with V.P. enjoying functional and process autonomy within the budgetary provisions and the NCSTC benefiting from the wider choice of purpose and goals. Effort is being made to avoid overlaps in functions and programmes. The heads of V.P. and the NCSTC are members of the decision-making bodies of both organisations. The NCSTC offers scope for public-public partnerships and global alliances in science outreach and communication.

For example, the Children's Science Congress is an activity of the NCSTC that demands Centre-State connectivity and partnerships. Science Express is an output of Indo-German partnership and involves string linkages with other departments. These activities are better accomplished as a departmental activity of the DST. Development of content, e-books, new educational tools and activities like science club, etc., which involve partnerships with stakeholders and target audience and flexibility combined with a close relationship to the scientific community, offer V.P. a unique strength unavailable to the NCSTC.

Is there a need for the strength of and funding for V.P. to be increased if it has to assume a bigger role?

Its small size is its strength. This strength also imposes restrictions on diversification of activities. I would advise V.P. to intensify rather than diversify.

The role and funding of organisations like V.P. should be viewed in relation to their context and comparative strengths. V.P. has grown under an input-led growth model. It should move towards an output-led and outcome-linked development path. That is, it should enrol partnerships for marketing and outreach which involve financing mechanisms too. If V.P. relies only on the DST and governmental sources for finance, the NCSTC and V.P. will be fighting for the same space.

In my opinion, V.P. needs a business plan, market alignment for products and alliances with other network partners, including in the private sector. The meaningful programmes of V.P. shall not suffer for want of funds, but the public investments into V.P. will have to be linked to value propositions of the product outputs and social outcomes.

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