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Dr S T Lee Public Policy Lecture 2018: Professor K Vijay Raghavan

27 November 2018, 5:30pm

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Science, the fulcrum for social and economic change in India

The 2018 Dr Seng Tee Lee Public Policy Lecture will be delivered by Professor K Vijay Raghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India

27 November 2018, Peterhouse, Cambridge

17:30 - 19:00 followed by drinks reception

Hosted by Professor Stephen Toope, Vice Chancellor, University of Cambridge


Science is a beautiful and rewarding pursuit. The understanding of our universe, which it continually brings, can hold us in thrall, constantly liberating us from our past ignorance while showing new frontiers for exploration.

From this understanding and through technology, science is also the fulcrum on which the strong crowbar of national missions which aim to lift India economically and socially can rest. Such a role for science is not only necessary for India but also for the sustainability of our planet, for with its large young population, the success of India is vital to the success of the world. Science as a fulcrum will allow reasonable and affordable investment to lift huge loads, where otherwise even larger investments can be ineffective.

This fulcrum must be strong and correctly placed. Till recently, this fulcrum was not strong enough and was poorly positioned. Both situations are speedily changing.

Strengthening science in India requires three simultaneous efforts: (1) strengthening our best institutions, invigorating the university research system and expanding the footprint of science by creating new institutions of quality; (2) opening the minds of our best research centres so that we challenge ourselves much more; and (3) increasing the resources for science and clearing bottlenecks in delivery of these resources. Increased support from the Government is necessary, but substantially more must come from industry and philanthropy.

Positioning science in India also requires three simultaneous efforts. Firstly, our research laboratories – often accused of being a short-walk from India – must inspire and be inspired by our messy surroundings. In other words, with doors wide open and working with the best internationally, we must also have an independent intellectual view and standing, and not only be an efficient interpreter of the global best in science.

Secondly, while India has been an active participant in many global science missions, it is now time for us to lead in the development of new missions, with international partners.

Thirdly, science in India must position itself to make major national missions in energy, environment, electric mobility, health, agriculture etc successful and cost-effective. Through development of context- appropriate technology, science in India can be the agent of social and economic transformation.

Over the past two years, a ‘Group of Science Secretaries’ met regularly to both formulate and initiate implementation of major steps in the above directions. This year, a new Principal Scientific Adviser and the Prime Minster’s Science Technology and Innovation Council were appointed.

India aims to make science central to its development, while ensuring that support for science as a beautiful and intellectually rewarding pursuit is also enhanced. India was one of the few post-colonial countries to invest substantially in science. Our ambition now is to see the impact of current changes in science policy by 2022, seventy-five years after independence,

About the speaker

Professor K VijayRaghavan was appointed Principal Scientific Adviser (PSA) to the Government of India in April 2018. The PSA chairs the Prime Minister’s Science Technology and Innovation Council whose mandate is to advice the Prime Minister of all matters related to Science, Technology and Innovation and monitor implementation.

Professor VijayRaghavan has served as the Secretary to the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India. Prior to that, he was the Director of the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) and the interim head of the Institute of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine (inStem).

Vijay Raghavan’s contributions in science, as developmental biologist, have been recognised widely. He was conferred an honorary Doctor of Science degree by the University of Edinburgh in 2011. He is a J C Bose Fellow of the Department of Science and Technology. He gave the J C Bose Memorial Lecture at the Royal Society in 2010, was awarded the inaugural Infosys Prize in Life Sciences 2009, and the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize, India’s most prestigious science award, in 1998.

He is a Distinguished Alumnus of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, the prestigious Institute’s highest honour. He was awarded the ‘Padma-Shri’ in 2013 by the Government of India He is a fellow of The Indian Science Academies. . VijayRaghavan is a Fellow of the Royal Society and a Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Sciences.

About S T Lee Public Policy Lectures

The S T Lee Public Policy lectures were established in 2003 thanks to a benefaction from Seng Tee Lee, Singaporean business executive, philanthropist and Honarary Fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge. Each lecture considers aspects of scientific, medical or technological research and developments that are likely to have significant implications for public policy over the next decade.

For a list of previous lectures, click here.