My experience working at India Science Festival.

Dr. Promit Moitra, Postdoctoral researcher at Institute of Plasma Research, shares his experience of working as a volunteer at the last two editions of India Science Festival – ISF 2021 and ISF 2022. Read on to know more!

As a doctoral student graduating at the cusp of the upheaval caused by the pandemic, my involvement with the India Science Festival means more to me than mere words can possibly describe. Beyond the informative and explorative aspects, it was a beacon of hope and enthusiasm, which were in short supply at the time. 

I was still getting used to the new normal of working from home, and found it very hard to imagine meeting new people and exploring any interests, given the constraints that were imposed on society as a whole. So I leapt at the opportunity when a friend of mine, who was themselves involved with the Festival, asked if I would be interested to join the team. Going through the program, I was honestly amazed that the organizers had managed to pull in such amazing people, with incredible profiles, and a wide variety of persuasions. I was initially involved with back-end moderation of live events.

“This experience taught me the essential skill of what I would term as ‘speed research’ – looking up relevant links and references being mentioned live during the sessions, to be posted in the chat for the audience.”

It was heartening to find that doing so improved audience engagement, which could be gleaned from the questions and feedback by the viewers.

It was my good fortune to be assigned to moderate a panel discussion on science fiction, a genre I am personally an avid fan of, with Profs. Mark McCaughrean and Vandana Singh. In the prevalent culture, such things are generally considered to be trivial pursuits, which is why I was all the more enthused to find that people in such significant professions were nevertheless deeply interested in science fiction and the role that it played as an interface between science, art and society. It was a thoroughly entertaining and informative session. I especially remember the remarks regarding how socio-cultural norms are reflected in the narratives of science fiction from various countries. I also found out to my surprise that Prof. McCaughrean was involved as an expert in the production of a sci-fi series I had been following religiously for the last few years. I derived a lot of encouragement regarding my own interests from the session. 

Given my experience the first time around, I couldn’t wait for the next edition of the Festival. I was honestly impressed by the professionalism of the organization, when I was contacted to be part of a focus group, for collecting feedback regarding the design of the next edition. For the 2022 edition, I was very glad to be assigned to a thoroughly technical session, formatted as a fireside chat, with Ilyas Khan, tech-preneur extraordinaire in the field of quantum computation. This interaction required some homework from my end, which exposed me to an entirely new field. Through the course of the discussion, we explored the promise of this emerging field, and in what ways it could change the world as we know it, along with some of the challenges in terms of technological gaps and funding of research in the field. 

Overall, the atmosphere of the festival is very warm and inviting, which I feel is a reflection of the approach and attitude of the organizing team. This is a one of a kind festival, especially in our country, where science communication is still in its infancy. I am very grateful for the opportunity to be part of this incredible endeavor.

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