Government to regulate Online Conferences – UPSC GS2

Context: Ministry of education has released a circular for regulating online conferences.
What was the circular?
  • Education ministry released a circular to state-funded universities and educational institutions.
  • A per this circular, these institutions and universities need prior official approval from the external Affairs ministry for hosting online “international conferences and seminars online”.
  • It also prohibits the conference topics related to the security of the state, border, the northeast, Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, and broadly, any “internal matters”.
  • A background check of participants will be required.
  • Event organisers are required to give preference to technological tools and channels not owned or controlled by hostile countries or agencies.
  • The circular was issued in consultation with the External Affairs Ministry.
Why this is retrograde step?
  • In a pandemic-hit phase, virtual conferences are the only viable channel for researchers to collaborate and discuss various issues with their global peers. The circular created a new bureaucratic hurdle for scientists in public universities, colleges, and organizations.
  • Virtual conferences were instrumental in the increased participation of thousands of Scientists. It increased attendance at events by 80% in 2020 over 2019 for the Plant Biology Worldwide Summit and over 300% for the American Physical Society meeting.
  • These conferences clear out many hurdles like visas, expensive travel, and physical disability, and so on, for the scientists who don’t have resources for that. Even researchers and students in the smallest towns can attend these conferences.
  • India has also made progress in peer-reviewed publications due to these collaborations. It reduces the concerns of biopiracy by documenting natural assets.
Thus, online conferences are very beneficial for research and technology in India. The government should adopt a more liberal approach towards it.

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