Unlike other public spaces, conversations here will be science based, rather than community based: Shibulal

Infosys Science Foundation inaugurates new office in Jayanagar

July 14, 2022 11:13 pm | Updated 11:13 pm IST - Bengaluru

S.D. Shibulal, Co-founder, Infosys

S.D. Shibulal, Co-founder, Infosys

After giving out the Infosys Prize to the country’s scientists and scholars from various disciplines for almost 12 years, the Infosys Science Foundation (ISF) inaugurated its new office in Jayanagar on Thursday.

The new office has a hundred-seater technology enabled auditorium, several conference rooms, dining spaces and offices for the members of ISF. 

Speaking virtually during the inauguration, N.R. Narayana Murthy (Founder, Infosys, and Trustee, ISF), said “My fond hope is that this modern building will be a citadel of openness to new ideas, curiosity, critical thinking, healthy scepticism, and agreeable disagreement for our young minds, and shape their minds to become good researchers.” He added that the office space was necessary to scale up the operations at ISF and to strengthen its identity. 

Presenting the challenges faced by young scientists in India, four women from different stages of education and research careers, pointed out gender disparity, lack of funding and other resources amongst others as major hurdles. They also laid out their further research plans. This was followed by a panel discussion on the importance of public spaces in enabling arts and sciences. The panel included Arundhati Ghosh (Executive Director, India Foundation for the Arts), Jahnavi Phalkey (Founding Director, Science Gallery Bengaluru), and V. Ravichandar (Honorary Director, Bangalore International Centre). 

Kris Gopalakrishnan, President, ISF, who also spoke at the event, said that Bengaluru was the only city in the world which had deep roots in science, research, engineering, law and liberal art colleges while also comprising IT services and industries, start ups, venture capitalists and research and developments labs. “To take full advantage of this, we need to look at collaborating for the future of India.” 

On the sidelines of the event, S.D Shibulal, Co-founder, Infosys Limited and Trustee, ISF spoke to The Hindu about the foundation’s plan for the office space, importance of research, and other things. Excerpts from the interview: 

Now that ISF has a physical space, what are the activities which will take place here?

SDS: We hope that like other public spaces, this place also facilitates conversations which can either be convergent or divergent. Unlike other public spaces, the conversations here will be more science based, rather than community based. We will have our ISF lectures where our laureates will come and speak. We also want to provide a forum for students to speak about science and research as they are our future role models. Over a period of time, this can be a place where researchers and laureates can get together and make this a happening place. 

What is the importance of integration of research in education and how will the Foundation be facilitating this integration?

 SDS: The final answer for all basic problems in the health, education or climate sector will all arise from fundamental research. Covid is a very good example where vaccine came out of fundamental bioscience research. Solutions for today’s and tomorrow’s problems lie in research. Traditionally, research was siloed, but today, we are seeing more interdisciplinary research. Enabling research is not a one stakeholder activity. From KG to PG, curiosity should be inculcated and research environment should be provided. In this direction, the first step of the Foundation is to create role models and the other is to host activities in schools, summer camps for students. 

The research students today pointed out the various challenges faced by women researchers. Will the ISF be rolling out any special measures or programmes for women researchers?

We have a fair share of women in our list of awardees and our jury panel. While the age limit for the (career achievement) award is 50 for men, for women it is 55 years as we understand that they might take a break in between. We are already trying to address the challenges they face. Change happens through conversations and today, there was a major conversation about these issues. Bringing forth such issues to centre stage itself is an activity. We will continue to ensure we encourage women, be inclusive in all our activities and also make sure the issues are centre staged for conversations. 

There are many students in rural schools who do not have access to research facilities. What steps will be taken by ISF to bridge the rural – urban gap?

When we conduct lectures, we do it in a lot of rural areas as well as tier 2 and 3 cities. We have also worked with a couple of other agencies who take science to schools. Rural and urban divide is an absolute reality, but at the same time, the boundaries (between rural and urban areas) are very close. We have encouraged some people in rural schools to take up science. Moving forward, when we have events here, we will not bring in people from urban areas, but start bringing people from nearby rural areas. We will also continue to conduct more activities through other agencies. 

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