Teenage environmental activist Greta Thunberg’s campaign urging the world to “listen to the scientists” to save the planet and the appeals from scientists to “save science from sabotage” by the US President Donald Trump have dramatically foregrounded the public role science could play in society.

In many parts of the world, the raging Covid-19 pandemic has created a new collaborative urgency to manage disease control: scientists been working with social scientists, public health officials and politicians.

In some places, there has been an attempt to establish new social contract by recognising the substantive advisory role of specialists. When this proceeded with transparency, open communication and public acknowledgement of the limitations of the data or changing knowledge of the virus, there has been greater public trust and better compliance with scientific advice.

In India, though, this has not happened. The country has witnessed an endorsement of pseudoscience. It has also seen confused official pronouncements about the Covid-19 curve “flattening without ever peaking” and that it would dive to zero in May despite a surge.

Coincidently, a little before the necessity of scientific opinion came to dominate global headlines, India prepared a new draft policy on “scientific social responsibility” seeking to develop linkages between science and society. Though it declared that scientific social responsibility should...

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