Two responses received on my 'A jingo bomb' post warrant a mention. Here they are.
I received two interesting responses to my earlier post on the threat nationalism posed to Big Science. The first was a comment on the post itself by Akshat Rathi, which I'd like to highlight here.
Sadly, what you're pointing at is just how Indian media operates. We've developed this deep seated desire to show to the west that we are a country of substance. It's a bit silly, but I'll live with it.
Leaving that aside, there is a larger point about human psychology which you've missed. We celebrate heroes. Big Science is a word we've coined today, but most progress in science since early 20th century has mostly come not from the individuals who are celebrated. The individuals are our ways of being able to construct a narrative that is memorable.
All this is to say that: if "boson" in the media made people think about Bose for a little bit of time, I'm ok with that. And as for the astrophysicists that were celebrated: if they act as role models to whom young physicists can look up to, I'm ok with them being featured in Nature India as "India's face" of the Planck mission.
I agree with Akshat's comment. I've made that point about how it's good to give our accomplishments a face or two, and that that's only one side of the narrative reel, so to speak. We've always been missing the plot. What we have is a roster without much being said about the scientists' accomplishments.
The second response was from an Arun Venu, by email, here presented in parts.
The only reason for us to celebrate such achievements would be to inspire the future generations to strive to contribute to science. Doing that without a proper investment in grassroots infrastructure in colleges (and adequate number of applied science institutions) has no purpose.
By the way, this phenomenon of celebrating only the winners is true even for all other fields, right?
Is it? And are other fields also threatened with fragmentation on nationalistic lines in the aftermath of globalisation?
As you rightly pointed out no one can claim ownership over scientific advances, but the fact remains that since ages scientific and technologic advances have been used as means for military and economic hegemony. This will always continue to bring a nationalistic side to technology. Even if in this age of IT enabled globalization where MNCs sponsor a great amount of research, they will continue to vow allegiance to their home country and the cutting edge technology will be limited to help their home country before it is "commoditised" for a global audience.
So even if people continue to believe that scientific achievements can’t be individuated, I think it will continue to be nationalised.
Thus, will the changing nature of ownership lead nation-states to perceive ownership of technology differently?
I just felt these points had to be highlighted.