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   Dialogues at the Science-Society interface : some contemporary issues and themes

A Conference in memory of Prof. C V Seshadri.
8-10 Feb. 2018, Chennai

Held under the aegis of the
C V Seshadri Endowment Anna University Chennai

Sponsored by
Shri. A. M. M. Murugappa Chettiar Research Centre (MCRC) Chennai

With academic and intellectual inputs from
PPST and Vidya Ashram Communities

  1. The Background
  2. Prof. C V Seshadri (1930-1995) was a distinguished chemical engineer who had done his doctoral and post-doctoral work at Carnegie Mellon University and MIT Boston before joining IIT Kanpur in 1965 where he served in various capacities till 1975. During 1977 - 1995, he served as the Founding Director of the Shri. A. M. M. Murugappa Chettiar Research Centre (MCRC) Chennai supported by the Murugappa Group, where he carried out pioneering work (both theoretical and practical) on orienting S&T work to be in the service of the poor. Prof. Seshadri also served as the President of the PPST Foundation.

    With his position that "Equity is Good Science", Prof. Seshadri has had significant influence on subsequent dialogues at the Science- Society interface in our country. He was one of the earliest from the mainstream S&T Community in India who had held the view that the crisis of development the world was facing may indeed have much to do with the values and biases inherent in Modern Science itself. Some of the key questions he raised were, in his own words -

    "Are (Modern) Science and Technology universally applicable? In other words, do they form a universal body of truth? Do they form an exploitative body of knowledge? In it possible to expect distributive justice and an equitable sharing of resources by the use of (Modern) Science and Technology? Or is it necessary to question the very axioms on which these systems are based?"

    The Science-Society dialogues have evolved much since then, especially with the impact that the processes of democratization as well as the developments in the field of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have had on the Knowledge domain itself, leading to the opening up of new spaces and new possibilities in the Knowledge landscape.

    The idea of what constitutes "knowledge" has itself been undergoing changes, going well beyond the scope of "laboratory science", and societies such as ours are beginning to be seen as seeped in knowledge of various types, forms and content, going well beyond the dichotomy of Modern versus Traditional. With the understanding that "all work is knowledge work", the task of building a knowledge society and knowledge economy indeed becomes much richer and more practical, and moves much closer to the ordinary people of this country, their knowledge and their capabilities.

    The proposed 2-day conference planned for the first week of February 2018 would highlight the key contributions of Prof. Seshadri in this space, and then move on to examine some of the developments that have taken place since then, as hinted at above.

    Such developments in the dialogues on science, knowledge and society however are yet to have any significant influence on our national thinking, plans and policies in this space. The two streams seem to go on independently and autonomously, with little reference to each other, with the resultant impoverishment and emaciation of both. The conference would explore this dimension of the problem, focusing especially on the question of how the formal institutions of knowledge such as our universities and research institutions can respond to the new dynamics in the knowledge domain, and become generators of new knowledge that can contribute significantly to our economy and society.

  3. Proposed themes of the Conference
  4. The following broad themes have been proposed :

    Theme - 1:

    • Recalling Prof. Seshadri's work, both conceptual and practical.
    • Internal critiques within Modern S&T (MST) since the time of Prof. Seshadri, and the possible impacts on the foundations of the knowledge domain of developments like Complexity, Big Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, Knowledge Management, Brain Research and Cognition, etc.

    Theme - 2:

    • Traditional Sciences and Technologies of India - status of our knowledge today, and thoughts on their possible roles & scope.

    Theme - 3:

    • Impact of ICT and the democratization processes on the Knowledge domain.
    • Going beyond the Modern - Traditional dichotomy in S&T : Loka Vidya (Knowledge in Society), a new claimant for a place on the high table of global knowledge systems.

    Theme - 4:

    • Knowledge content in fields such as arts, literature, music etc. Society as an ocean of knowledge.

    Theme - 5:

    • How our institutions of Higher Education and Research should respond to the new dynamics in the knowledge space, and become generators of knowledge in a massive scale that can contribute significantly to our economy and society.

  5. Participation in the Conference:
  6. The Conference would have both invited and contributed papers on the themes given above. To contribute a paper, a detailed abstract of about 200 words may be emailed to us latest by 30th Nov. 2017. Result of selection will be intimated by email by 10th Dec. 2017, and final version of the selected paper is to be submitted by 15th January 2018. Travel and local hospitality support would be available to a limited number of contributing authors.

    Participants can also register and attend the conference without submitting a paper, but subject to a selection process based on their CV and prior work.

    Conference Registration is free of cost for all categories of participants.

The CVS Conference Secretariat
AU-KBC Research Centre
MIT Campus of Anna University
Chromepet, Chennai - 600044
Ph. 044-22232711; Cell: 9841026505
Email: cvsconf@gmail.com
URL: http://au-kbc.org/cvsconf. html