Yes, you heard it right. Scientific discoveries happening in modern times don’t take place on the will of some mad, unfriendly scientist, or I should put it this way: what a scientist really wants to research about, they are not allowed to do so. But before citing me the example of the International Space Station, Artificial Intelligence and many others, think of it in this way: have you heard about any great scientific study being undertaken or published in the media, both offline as well as online?
The studies that one usually encounters is in the daily newspaper, and they have a close relationship with the business section of the paper. One of the common researches you might have comes across are that of the health benefits of caffeine. These usually get published when a company launches a new coffee variant and wants the reader to be reminded of how a cup of coffee in the morning boosts productivity and is only the best thing that you can do for yourself.
But the reality is different. Most of these articles are misleading as excess consumption of caffeine is known to cause miscarriages, low birth weight, high blood pressure, rapid heartbeats and increase in anxiety disorders. It is no secret that coffee has the one of the highest concentration known to any cherries.
But my personal favourite example I’ll use to prove this point is from one of the most famous books, ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind’ , written by none other than Yuval Noah Harari. I suggest everyone to read this book and to look at history from an alternative perspective. The idea to write this article was mainly drawn from this book, but this article is not a review of the book. So coming back to the point, in the later part of the book, Harrari uses the example of a cleaver to describe something about how corporates work. He uses the example of cows.
Let’s say two scientists seek funding for a research. One wants to research on the mental and psychological state of cows and her calves when they get separated after birth, while the other scientist wants to research on the hormone or medication that can help increase milk production. Clearly, and obviously from the point of view of corporates, the second option is more viable and promising to invest in.
The main issue for this kind of attitude or method of working is that it hampers the natural growth of science. Many scientific discoveries may not have any monetary value, but they help in improving our lifestyle as the first research on the mental health of cows may tell us how the cow feels, and not separating the calves from their mother might just help improve milk quality as cows would now be happier and less stressed.
Coming back to current times, the rapid development of the Covid-19 vaccines around us was majorly fuelled by the daily increasing death toll. The monetary benefits this opportunity possessed for the company that first develops a vaccine will not stop coming in anytime soon. In the second wave, various countries are showing multiple strains of the virus. Many scientists have shown concern towards the possible tendency of an immune escape.
There are also the beaten tracks, but the research undertaken by government organisations is not for monetary benefit, but for national pride and strategic importance. But there is yet another paradigm that should also be taken care of. The development of nuclear weapons and space research indicate major accomplishments and becomes moment in human history that are cherished forever.
However, fields such as space and defence are big and bring great international repute, but many other important fields get shadowed by them. This fact can’t be understood better any other time than today. Anyone would have rarely heard about an immunologist or epidemiologist before the Covid-19 pandemic broke. These fields are highly specialised and not many like to pursue them, again due to being less popular in comparison to space and defence.
Again, I want to request India to respect its scientists. When the Bharat Biotech vaccine, Covaxin, was cleared by the government for mass vaccination, what all was said about its efficacy and efficiency. But as soon as famous immunologist and adviser to the President of the United States, Dr Anthony Fauci, reacted positively to the vaccine and its effectiveness on the Indian strain and 617 other variants, everyone started talking well about it. Had we valued our scientists, we would not have required the validation of the West or the United States. And a word of advice in the end: listen to what doctors and scientists say, and not what gets forwarded to you on Whatsapp or social media.