Call to increase investment in science

Kathmandu, September 10

Experts today urged the government to increase investment in science to achieve its developmental goals.

Speaking at an interaction programme organised by Nepal Forum of Science Journalists in Kathmandu today, the academicians also criticised the government policy that devised a method to be scientific without doing science.

Presenting a working paper on “Physics in Nepal: Challenges and Opportunities“, Professor Udayraj Khanal claimed that Nepali political leaders have converted science into an adjective – scientific education or scientific land reform and so on.

“We have devised a method to be scientific without doing science — the way we have encroached on the Bagmati River in the name of watershed management or our method of road expansion by demolishing parts of buildings,” he said.

Saying that science cannot progress without support from industry, Prof Khanal said more than 70 per cent of physics PhDs in the developed world go into industry, and selected few into academics. “We have virtually no opportunity except in teaching,” he added.

Government must explore possibilities by adopting the policy of using and developing local expertise, he said, highlighting the urgent need to increase investment in the field.

Laser sightings were used to optimise the slopes of the rice fields in California decades ago and now drones are being used to monitor farms, Khanal said, adding that Nepali farmers were not even able to feed their families working small pieces of land with bare hands, but the same family could be supported by going across the border to help in the harvesting. “Our policy is to encourage the youth to leave their farms fallow, and go to farm and raise cattle in the desert.”

We have not been able to understand what science can do as scientists must take the major blame for not being able to explain the same, he said.

Speaking on the occasion, Vice Chancellor at the Nepal Academy of Science and Technology, Professor Jibraj Pokharel said NAST was committed to mainstreaming science and innovation into the nation’s development programmes.

Professor Shovakanta Lamichhane, executive director, BP Planetarium under the Ministry of Science and Technology, admitted the government’s failure to prioritise science and technology as a major tool for national development.

NFSJ Chairman Chhatra Karki said media could play a vital role in exploring knowledge on science in the diversified society. “Stakeholders must expedite debate on the importance of science,” he added.

Experts including Mohan Bikram Gyawali, Professor Ram Khatiwada, Nilam Shrestha Pradhan, Indra Bahadur Karki and Ananda Raj Khanal also shared their views on science.