2 Sep :National Council of Science Museums (NCSM), the premiere institution in the field of science communication, is an autonomous organization under the Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India. Primarily engaged in popularizing Science and Technology through a wide range of science activities and interactive programmes, NCSM has now become a trend setter in the field of science communication nationally as well as internationally. Presently NCSM administers and manages 27 science museums/centers spread countrywide.
Minister of Tourism and Culture Smt. Ambika Soni recently chaired a meeting of the society of National Council of Science Museums (NCSM) in New Delhi.The Minister was informed at the meeting with a committed effort for the continuous growth of the science centre movement in the country the visitor footfall to NCSM centres has now reached the 9.5 million mark and is growing every year.
Smt. Ambika Soni was also briefed about the on going projects of NCSM. There is a continuous demand for setting up new science centers from different States. As a result, NCSM is setting up new science centers in the following places and will be completed as per the indicated targets:
Sub Regional Science Center Solapur, Maharashtra (March 2009) work going on
Regional Science Center, Ranchi, Jharkhand (November 2009) work going on
Regional Science Center Raipur, Chhattisgarh (October 2009) work going on
Regional Science Center, Dharwad, Karnataka (December 2010) work going on
Regional Science Center, Coimbatore, Tamilnadu (April 2011) work going on
Regional Science Center, Mangalore, Karnataka (June 2011) work going on
Regional Science Center, Jaipur, Rajasthan (September 2011) to be started in 2008
Regional Science Center, Pimpri Chinchwad, Pune, Maharashtra (November 2011) to be started in 2008
Planetarium, Puducherry (November 2011) likely to be started in 2008
According to NCSM, there are requests from the Govt. of Karnataka for setting up Science City in Bangalore, Govt. of Assam for a Science City in Guwahati and the Govt. of Himachal Pradesh at Shimla. The proposals are under active consideration of NCSM and a decision is likely to be taken by the end of 2008.
Major changes have been made in the different schemes of Science Cities, Regional Science Center and Sub Regional Science Centers by the UPA Government at the Centre. These changes were required as the State Government were finding it difficult to make available 50 acres of land besides the state share of 13% of the cost. Additionally, 74% of the share from private/ corporate agencies was also not forthcoming. With a view to set up more Science Cities and Science Centers, the requirement has been reduced to 25 acres and the Central Government’s share has been increased to 60% of the project cost with maximum limit of Rs. 30 crores. It is expected that these changes will enable more Science Cities to come up in the near future at different locations.
Due to the recognition of the expertise of NCSM in setting up state-of-art science centers and related activities there is an ever increasing demand for setting up more science centers even in those states where the science centers are already operating. About the North-East, it was noted that during the 10th Five Year Plan period NCSM completed setting up science centers in each of North eastern states and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. Now the Council is in the process of setting up new science centers at Jorhat, Assam (March 2011).There is a request from the Govt. of Sikkim for expansion of the science center at Gangtok.
Over the years NCSM has developed a strong capability for developing state-of-art, interactive science exhibits. Through its R &D activities NCSM has excelled in indigenously developing several display techniques which have proven to be very effective in science communication. This has earned NCSM the recognition as a world class institution in the science museum profession across the globe. NCSM has already set up the Rajiv Gandhi Science Center at Mauritius; which has now made the iconic presence of India felt in Mauritius and adjoining countries. The Govt. of Mauritius has requested NCSM to extend support for the second phase expansion of the Rajiv Gandhi Science Center with additions of a Planetarium, upgradation of the existing galleries and new thematic galleries. The matter is under action consideration. Similarly, talks are on with the Govt. of Nepal and countries like Malawi, Lesotho, Nigeria, Rwanda, Zambia etc. and in South Africa for setting up of Science Learning Centers and Science Centers in their respective countries. The Council has to its credit export of exhibits to Turkey, UK, Israel, Iran, Bangladesh and Australia etc.
Traveling exhibitions on themes related to contemporary scientific and technological topic are developed every year for circulation through the chain of the science centers of NCSM and also other science centers and like minded institutions in the country. This year NCSM shall design and develop two such new exhibitions titled ‘Our Bodyguards – The Human Immunity System’ and ‘Measuring our Planet’. Another exhibition on’ Frontiers of Astronomy’ will be developed during 2009-10.
NCSM also organizes several national level programmes in the field of science education which attract million of school children and provide them with the scope for learning science in a non-formal ambience. The programmes normally includes National Science Seminars, National Science Drama Festivals, science fairs, computer fairs, engineering fairs, science demonstration lectures, science workshops etc.
In its endeavour to raise the standard of the Human Resource especially in the field of science communication the Council started a formal course on Science Communication in collaboration with BITS Pilani and with faculty support of Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C. The course titled ‘Master of Science (Science Communication)’ has already groomed one batch of Science Communicators who graduated in 2007. The second and third batches are in progress.
Funds have not been a constraint for NCSM. However, the organization has a limitation in providing technical manpower for the project it has undertaken. Serious manpower crunch is affecting its ability to execute projects of large scale. NCSM will have to work to develop a suitable model based on Public Private Partnership, which could enable creation of technical capacity outside the NCSM fold.