Science, Technology and Public Policy

Session Report
Srinidhi Kavirayani

Introduction:  Science and Technology

On the 9th day of the one-month certificate course on Fundamentals of Public Policy, Former Ambassador, Dr.Bhaskar Balakrishnan presented a lecture on “Science, Technology and Public Policy”. Dr Balakrishnan began his lecture by introducing the idea of science as a basis of knowledge of nature.  He touched upon the importance of science and technology in the present world, its impact on society and economy, and the disruptive power it wields. He discussed how S&T is crucial for the development of several developing nations, by lowering the cost of development through the use of appropriate and efficient scientific interventions. He highlighted the role of S&T ecosystems in governmental offices, regulatory agencies, civil societies, business communities etc. 

Public Policy for Science

After establishing the significance of science in the modern world, Dr Balakrishnan proceeded to explain how public policy can strengthen the national S&T ecosystem. He highlighted that early intervention through S&T in developmental issues can advance information and also tailor timely responses to emerging developments across the globe. He advocated for robust S&T systems in India to facilitate greater participation in large international programmes and for the commercialization of S&T  to ensure greater benefits. He discussed the pressing need to regulate and mediate these concerns by policy interventions. 

Public Policy for SDG and Development 

Dr Balakrishnan then moved on to the development dimension of science and technology and how S&T can boost development in growing economies.  He explained how development has to be seen in a wide context that includes national security.  He also highlighted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which add a layer of urgency to utilize S&T for achieving the targets by 2030.  Talking about India, Dr. Balakrishnan listed out the functions and duties of the central think tank, NITI Aayog which is responsible for coordinating and monitoring the SDGs in India. 

COVID Challenge and Health Sector

Recalling the challenges faced during the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath, Dr Balakrishnan spoke about India’s vaccination efforts and the interventions by the public health care system. He drew attention towards the weaknesses in the public health infrastructure in India, which were exposed sharply during the pandemic. Discussing these major challenges, Dr Balakrishnan shed light on the importance of science, technology and innovation in the battle against such adverse conditions. He made a case for utilizing public policy to govern S&T to mitigate the challenges against development.

Climate Change and Energy 

In the last part of the session,  Dr Balakrishnana discussed one of the most pertinent issues of public policy- climate change. Addressing key issues such as greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), growing energy needs, climate financing, Dr Balakrishnan highlighted the role played by S&T in dealing with these issues in the context of a post-pandemic world. He concluded the session by pointing out that leveraging science and technology to inform policy decisions is the way forward in an attempt to solve public problems including public health and climate change adversities. 

Conclusion

Ambassador Bhaskar Balakrishnan delivered a presentation titled “Science, Technology, and Public Policy” as part of a one-month certificate course on Fundamentals of Public Policy. He emphasized the crucial role of science and technology (S&T) in modern society, citing its impact on economy and society and its potential for disruptive change.

Balakrishnan discussed the importance of strong S&T ecosystems in various sectors and highlighted the need for public policy to enhance national S&T capabilities. He also stressed the role of S&T in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and addressing challenges like climate change and public health, particularly citing India’s experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. Balakrishnan concluded by advocating for the integration of S&T in policy decisions to tackle pressing public issues effectively.

Acknowledgment: Written by Srinidhi Kavirayani, intern at IMPRI.

Posted by Reetwika Mallick, intern at IMPRI.

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