India needs an academy that creates an enabling environment for its young scientists to provide solutions to the problems facing the country's poor people, says Raghunath Mashelkar, professor at the National Chemical Laboratory in Pune.
The Global Young Academy, established in 2010 in Germany, aims to support national young academies. India, with more than half of its population aged under 25 years, would benefit from a Young Academy, argues Mashelkar. The country's young scientists lack a space to express views on controversial issues such as cultivating GM eggplant and building nuclear power plants.
A Young Academy must strive for excellence and also relevance — "the ability to provide Indian solutions to the specifically Indian problems of 800 million resource-poor people". There are energetic and compassionate young scientists ready for this challenge, says Mashelkar.
For example, more than 100,000 undergraduate projects posted on the online portal Techpedia aim to alleviate societal problems. And the Open Source Drug Discovery challenge, launched by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research in 2008, attracted 3,000 graduates who have contributed to understanding of tuberculosis and drugs to treat the disease.
Mashelkar suggests that the academy should have an independent and "constantly questioning" attitude, embrace all disciplines — natural sciences, engineering, social sciences, arts and humanities — and make good use of technology and social media tools.