Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Science On Indian Radio

A friend recently got hooked on to Science Friday and other radio programs on NPR. We were talking about the lack of science programming on Indian radio and whether something on the lines of Science Friday will find an audience in India.

Both of us remembered that All India Radio and Gyan Vani do have educational segments that discuss primarily health issues. A guest, usually a medical practitioner, talks about one health topic.. diabetes, stress, AIDS, eye disorders and so on. On All Indian Radio, the program is uniquely geared towards keeping Indian audiences tuned in. It intersperses the discussion with the guests favorite movie songs. Listening to Bollywood music and songs is something of a craze in India and the educational segments try to use it to keep listeners attentive. Someone used to Science Friday and other science programs on western radio stations will find these programs quirky with their song and musical interludes! Gyan Vani is by comparison quite sedate with long stretches of conversation without interruption.

But why not add to the repertoire of subjects discussed? No doubt, healthy citizens make a healthy nation and the current programming is seen to be pragmatic and providing an immediate social benefit. On the other hand,  I have never heard "pure" sciences been discussed in these programs. No geology, no evolution, no chemistry, no genetics or cosmology. I hope the perception is not there that only advice about health which audiences find useful in their daily lives should be covered. Or that, there is no interest in India in listening to someone ramble about the earth's tectonic plates or whether humans interbred with the Neanderthals or some arcane topic about the cosmos.

The trick to hook audiences may be to begin with events of national interest wherein knowledge of certain scientific super-specialization has been called upon to weigh in favor of or against the implementation of big projects and policy decisions. The programs could be in English or Hindi or a regional language. Here is my list:

1) Biotechnology and Indian agriculture
2) Nuclear, Solar and Wind Power
3) Groundwater and Indian agriculture
4) Designing New Remote Sensing Senors For Ecological and Mineral Mapping
5) Interlinking of Himalayan and Peninsular Rivers

Make no mistake. Fundamental principles of biology, geology, physics and chemistry will be put to use to tackle the above listed problems. These already have been given considerable attention in the mainstream media and are in the public eye. Often though, the science involved is not written about in articles or discussed on television. A more leisurely radio program might just be the most convenient medium for explaining the basic science and weaving a story about discoveries with the practical applications of these fields. And scientists coming out and speaking frankly about their work in these fields will get citizens interested and involved in a more open and informed debate about controversial projects.

..one final request. These radio stations must have a website and a downloadable podcast of every program. I have a feeling that many people in India too will find listening on a mobile device the best way to catch up with science stories.

what will life be without little dreams.. :)


  1. Good idea! specially if scientists honestly debated biotechnology and nuclear power and alternatives thereof...like are many smaller power plants better and safer tahn one big one or how can long term effects of transgenic crops be known etc

  2. Yes definitely we need more science programs in radios/FM.

    But for people who are really interested can download weekly podcasts from all these websites:



  3. thanks Puttaraju for the links..