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Anupa Lahkar Goswami
Date of Publish: 2017-10-13

Deciphering Science Understanding through Science Communication in Assam

 

For many the word Science is often synonymous to a realm of discoveries, complex and extraordinary phenomenon and technical jargons that is difficult for a layman to decipher. Adding to this, very few books or literature have undertaken efforts to break down these difficult concepts and relate them to a lot of things that come on our way, briefly defined as science communication. Despite the apparent existence of panic associated with science and scientific phenomenon, it is this book ‘Science Communication in Assam’, by Anamika Ray and Ankuran Dutta that has broken the myth of fear on undecipherability that is irrevocably associated with science communication.

Moving back and forth in time in terms of searching content on Science communication, the writers have exemplified the work of Dr Dinesh Chandra Goswami in his analysis of ‘Dakar Basan’. Deducing some from his analysis and adding much from observation and interpretation, the writers have been able to interpret popular Assamese proverbs into relevant scientific content. The Assamese folklores rich in information be it agriculture, weather, health, food habit and maternal health among others have been also documented in the book.

Tracing the history of Assamese society and its innumerable sources of scientific work communicated through variegated forms, highlighting their sources and extracting scientific elements are all done chapter wise in the book. Through a qualitative content analysis, the writers have been able to identify these elements and reflect the present scenario of science communication in print as well as television right from ‘The Hindu’ to the ‘All India Radio’ and ‘Doordarshan’. For instance they identified the programs of the All India Radio like ‘Krishi Katha’, ‘Krishi Jagat’, Nidan, ‘Doctor on line’ and ‘Jyotir Bigyanor Jyeuti’ which are in every sense science communication.

The book has also very cleverly pointed out how ‘Orunodoi’, the first newspaper of Assam also the first attempt at news making by the Baptist missionary has had almost 35 per cent of its content dedicated to science communication right after its first edition. It was also only after 28 years, of the first Indian Journal on Science Communication, Digdarshan, that Assamese journals began to publish its science communication content, so the leap hasn’t been very slow with 1953, Assam science society publishing Bigyan Jeuti very closely to that of the national publication.

Assamese literature, pertaining to science communication have been very lucidly scripted in the book. Like other folklore, Assamese Bihu songs, as well as devotional songs, too have content, based on rational understanding of relations as well as in-depth study on the weather change, eating habit and the natural remedies for regular illness. Despite this, the book brings the vacuum persistent in the field of the science fiction and the challenges and prospects it bears.

Novel concepts like Scientoons with mention of Late Dost Habibur Rahman, Dr Khiradhar Baruah in Assam highlights the potential role that scientoons can play in disseminating development communication, stating examples of the practical adaptability of Grassroots comics at Gauhati University.

It is quite intriguing that the ethnic communities of the region have their own medical remedies and well as call upon different deities for treatment for regular health issues. It is in the light of this that the Karbi’s infest their healing beliefs in ‘Rishubasa’ who is the traditional healer and uses traditional plants and medicines for. The book brings out the need to conserve traditional conserving process and also use science communication as a means to do away with issues of superstitions, ill health and other issues.

The book also brings into limelight organisations that have been providing relentless service for promotion of Science Communication, some government aided and some private like the National Council for Science and Technology Communication, Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha, Assam Science Society, Gyan Vigyan Samiti. It also highlights the contribution of scientists as well as communicators like Dr Bijoy Krishna Sarma, Dr Dinesh Chandra Goswami and Dr Khiradhar Baruah among others and identifying as well as categorising their writing skills into pure and applied science writing, descriptive science writing and news based science writings.

Even the practical difficulties faced in science education are very vividly laid down in the book. All said and done, this is composite book that has all the elements of an interesting research on science communication in the media capital of the northeast India as well as identify ways and methods to elevate science education for days to come. However, an in-depth sequel into the measures for promoting science communication and penetrating among the masses can make this a stronger base for science communication in Assam.

Anupa Lahkar Goswami

( Anupa Lahkar Goswami is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication and Journalism, Gauhati University. She can be reached at anupalahkar@gmail.com. )

 

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