Commentary Annals of Neurosciences The Case for Academic Social 26(3–4) 6–7, 2019 © 2020 Indian Academy of Neurosciences Responsibility Reprints and permissions: in.sagepub.com/journals-permissions-india DOI: 10.1177/0972753119894813 journals.sagepub.com/home/aon Akshay Anand The job description of an academic ranges from being an Why Science Educators and Academics educator, mentor, and innovator to a physician or an engineer. Can Inspire Community Work Most academics do not transcend the boundaries of the classroom, lab, or clinic and stay away from contributing Professionally qualified social workers and other social towards community development activities unless their reformers are often seen working with communities. The field of research or the professional duty takes them to science educators and their students are missing from these a community or a satellite clinic. The perpetuation of places, partly because the current research curriculum does dissociation between professional expertise and community not include this important element of soft skill development outreach activities was not realized until recently when the and partly because they wear a condescending attitude. honorable PM tried to heighten the civic sense among public Since the scientific community is looked upon with awe and on October 2, 2014. He role-modelled by taking his broom respect its role modeling in community development, their to the Delhi streets and began clearing the litter. Soon other role-modelling can scale up the campaign. The experience senior functionaries followed. He appealed to the public to and eloquence of academics drawn from the Chandigarh dedicate 2 hours each week towards community sanitation in institution collaborative group, the CRIKC, can be effectively an ‘ice bucket challenge’ fashion, inspiring them to upload used to spearhead the public health outreach campaigns for the ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures on MyGov.in, Facebook, and cleaner Chandigarh. This can be done by allocating @2 hrs so on. He obviously didn’t want to specify the academics or per week for ‘litter pick up’ campaigns, led by supervisors their Institutions, on whom lay the great responsibility, but and their students. These academics from PGI, Panjab he did challenge the nine important celebrities exhorting University, NIPER, IISER, IITR, CSIO, GMCH, etc., are them to aim for cleaner India. The Ministry of Science and best positioned to educate the street gatherings about the Technology followed the cue and soon came out with a importance of hygiene and sanitation, and its link with health circular asking the research institutions to engage in social and diseases by themselves cleaning the area. This can further outreach activities. This included teaching kids in socially escalate the Clean India campaign. A spirit of academic social excluded localities. There were no specific official circulars responsibility can be formally introduced for various PhD imploring the academics to undertake any such activity as it programs among CRIKC institutes. was natural to be overwhelmed by the government reminder As an example, after the neuroscience professor and his for aesthetic and cleaner environment. However, institutions, students descended on the streets 4.5 years back, people and as per official requirement, secured a formal ‘pledge’ to keep patient’s attendants spontaneously gathered to listen to them the surroundings clean, undertaken through the heads of and to follow them in their weekly litter pick-up activities, organizations. It was immediately taken up to ground zero by clicking pictures and at times clearing the litter spread across the faculty and students of Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research. The responsibility they carry continues unabated. 4.5 years later, when a research paper on Neuroscience Research Lab, Department of Neurology, Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, India. the subject was being written, the idea of ‘academic social responsibility’ was coined by a senior colleague and coauthor Corresponding author: so that this activity could inspire others to follow suit as this Akshay Anand, Neuroscience Research Lab, Department of Neurology, Post might be helpful in scaling the practice and consequently Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, India. curbing the infections related to the lack of sanitation. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Creative Commons Non Commercial CC BY-NC: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial 4.0 License (http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/) which permits non-Commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage). Anand 7 the campus. The campus used to be replete with mud holes, qualitative change in attitude among students and faculty. garbage, and scattered plastic bags and plates. In those days, Most students reported a surging feeling of service and a there were not many dustbins or signposts in the campus. growing urge to relate their research work to social benefit. When this group of academics descended on the campus Many participants were humbled by the poor who lived on streets and wrote to the institute authorities, taking turns for the streets. They were able to appreciate the work done by leading the campaign, week after week, the litter comprising ragpickers and speak to street gatherings, inspiring them to food plates, bidis, and gutkas disappeared from the campus. carry on with a spirit of service and compassion. However, The shiny steel signposts and swanky dustbins replaced them. a few continued to be condescending and remained irregular Many research lab heads, students and nursing staff, visiting participants in this voluntary scheme. Others agreed that this professors, community heroes, and alumni also joined activity was a great stress buster, especially after a grulling the campaign in these intervening 4.5 years. Despite blind lab experiment had failed. Many even brought their family criticism, coupled with general dislike for litter, the campaign members and kids on days that marked 50, 100, 150, 200 continued uninterrupted, without break. By the time the new weeks of Clean India activity. They felt that the interaction director joined, things were in order—the mud holes had been of academics with general public boosted their morale and replaced by green lawns, and littered plastic bags by plants, self-confidence, and lent a sense of meaning to life, often flowers, and signposts. The institute was later also recognized amiss in academic life. for championing the cause of cleanliness. Challenges and Future Perspectives Butterfly Effect A CRIKC charter for mandating academic social responsibility A study by research scholars of Panjab University examined in the research training can enable the institutions to lead the the “before” and “after” effects of Clean India activity at PGI. public health initiatives. Academics work in groups and their Inspired by the regularity of the students and their supervisor students are important members of knowledge generation descending to the campus, week after week, and uploading besides driving its translation. The community outreach the pictures of activity on MyGov.in, a team from Panjab activities provide the necessary substrate for knowledge University carried out a masked survey randomly asking the translation for social benefit. As students are creative laymen in the campus about “who were the people” carrying frontrunners of any academic activity, many of them were out the litter-pick activity and “what was the impact noticed.” quick to make weekly outreach rosters to bring structure to They sampled about 100 people and found that there was this voluntary activity. A few of them published two editions good awareness among patients and their attendants about of illustrative comic “Magical Broom” and “Magical Broom this activity. In a population of migrating patients, sustaining Returns” that described personal experiences and challenges the Clean India campaign was more than expected. Slowly, from this activity. The sanitation workers felt elated at seeing the dustbins began to appear next to various rehris (roadside academics doing their job and appeared more accepted by the stall) outside the campus. Even the place where daily rationing intellectual class. A few of them found such outreach activity of langars (community meal) used to be held wore a cleaner imposing and often skipped it and later left the group. Even look. The area which was full of maggots soon became cleaner though academics are expected to be cognitively unbiased and hygienic. A large garbage dumping container was also and evidence-based in their approach, a few remained struck installed next to the langar area by the municipal authorities. to a certain ideology subtly justifying nonengagement in the The frequently urinated wall outside PGI’s Gate No. 1 soon litter pick-up campaign. They reasoned that this was the duty began to appear cleaner. Subsequently, the vendors moved of sanitation workers and that it affected their research work. to the adjacent area outside Gate No. 1, accompanied by For them, it was a waste of time (@2hrs/week). For those rebuilding of the bus stop to the other side of the road, further few, this activity had roots in nationalistic or presumably a reducing the litter generated. By this time, a professor of PGI right wing ideology which they did not adhere to. Ironically, had launched a vendor sanitation program. This had a cascade science fails where outreach begins. effect in the immediate community as the vendors, who had moved to the adjacent venue. For some time, they began to Declaration of Conflicting Interests wear gloves and aprons. The author declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. Change Within Funding The Clean India campaign brought an invisible The author received no financial support for the research, authorship, transformation in the academic life of participants with and/or publication of this article.
Annals of Neurosciences – SAGE
Published: Jul 1, 2019