Dr. Abdus Salam, till date the only Noble laureate of Pakistan in science, always considers as an influential scientific figure in twentieth century not only for his work in the field of particle physics but also as a science promoter. Salam finished his PhD from University of Cambridge in 1951 and returned to serve his motherland. It is the time when he was not only emerging to become one of the most brilliant and finest physicists of twentieth century with iconoclastic ideas but also started to become an advocate for the promotion of scientific knowledge, generally in the world and specially for the third-world countries. Story begins when Salam visited IAEA as a member of Pakistani delegation and espoused it to build a true centre for scientific research and development in third-world countries. It was for the first time when Salam proposed the idea of The International Centre for Theoretical Physics which was finally founded in Trieste, Italy in 1964 and Salam became his founding director. (ICTP was renamed to Abdus Salam ICTP in 1997 in the honor of Dr. Salam.)
The inception of ICTP was not an easy task. Despite of all the hurdles, it was his out of bounds inquisitiveness and appetite for the promotion of scientific knowledge. Since its inception, ICTP played a vital role in bridging the gap of scientific research in developing nations due to isolation among local and international scientific groups. This is the thing which Salam also faced during his stay in Pakistan in 1950s. In recent past, ICTP not only expand its facilities to other cutting-edge research areas and diploma program other than theoretical physics but also instituted many prizes and awards to honor the scientific contributions of researched from developing world. One of these awards is ICO/ICTP Gallieno Denardo Award, which is awarded, since 2000, to recognize the seminal contribution in the field of Optics and Photonics. It was first awarded to Arbab Ali Khan from Quaid-i-Azam University in 2000.
On February 20, 2019, Dr. Muhammad Faryad became the fourth Pakistani recipient of this award who shared it with Christian Tomas Schmiegelow from Argentina. Dr. Faryad received his bachelors from Punjab University, Lahore in mathematics and physics and did his masters in electronics from Quaid-i-Azam university. In 2012, he received his PhD from Pennsylvania State University under the supervision of Dr. Akhlesh Lakhtakia. He is currently the assistant professor and chairman of Physics department at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), Lahore. Since June 2016, he is the section editor for plasmonics and thin films in a peer-reviewed journal International Journal of Light and Electron Optics (Optik). Dr. Faryad is considered as one of the pioneers in the field of zero-index metamaterials in Pakistan. He also coauthored an advanced level book in the field of electromagnetism in 2018. Regardless of the depriving situation of scientific research in a large number of institutions in country, this was a magnificent achievement of a Pakistani scientist from LUMS, to start off new year.
The thing which agitated and urged to pen down this article as that being one of the most substantial and prominent prizes, this achievement remained unqualified to achieve the attraction of print and electronic media in Pakistan. To my knowledge, there is not, even a single newspaper or a television channel who covered this news in the past three weeks. An American sociologist, Dorothy Nelkin, is of the view that “for most people, the reality of science is what they read in the press”. In modern world, media is the true substitute of press. In developed countries, media is playing its role brilliantly. Nearly all of the famous newspapers have separate section of science and technology where they not only hire professionals to write science blogs and cover scientific news across the globe but also have journalists to go-between scientists and general public to convey and communicate about modern and futuristic perspectives of science.
Pakistan may be described as a dream come true, above ideals and visions. It’s more than seventy years and still we are in the beginning of realization of many dreams, attainment of many goals and innumerable achievements, especially in the field of science. Individually, sincere efforts have been made for the true scientific outreach (PhysLab LUMS under the supervision of Dr. Sabieh Anwar is one the prominent examples of this.). But still without the strenuous efforts of media, it will be grueling to promote science because media has the right resources and power to bridge the gap between science and society.
We are living in an era where media (and their social media outreach) is the fastest and easiest way to reach the masses. Civilization is progressing day by day; people-media interaction is increasing in parallel, economic growth of states has been intertwined with scientific and technological revolution and it has direct effects on the development of society. I don’t remember that I have seen even a single show on “true” science on television in the last decade. Although there are a few popular science magazines yet are not enough to meet the actual necessity.
Scientific journalism is not a disregarded pillar of journalism but it seems that we are quite intended to ignore it. Even though I’m agree to the fact that media is not a subsidized industry and it needs to attract audience to work and exist as a successful production house yet they can also attract the public by portraying science via illustrative approach. Today’s media has the power to divert the attention and demands of masses, there are number of examples of this in recent past. Popularization of science by media does not only exert considerable influences on young generation to be decisive about choosing their field but also ignite them to pave their path to “true” scientific research. Regardless of the all the facts and keeping in view the betterment of country, it’s an unconditional duty of the media to promote and report science as they do for all other activities such as politics, sports, entertainment etc. Media houses can also take advantage of their social media pages as well. Since 1947, we are continuously overlooking the words of Dr. Salam who once said that “Scientific thought and its creation is the common and shared heritage of mankind.” The medallions, accolades, awards and achievements that are pinned to the name Pakistan cannot be made a part of an account so brief for Pakistan is a land where every dawn tells a new tale. Although current situation is not so encouraging yet there are men like Dr. Faryad who are working tirelessly to embolden the young generation. But still there is a severe need to show aptness to promote science and scientists in the country. We cannot confine, constrain or restrain science by bounds of any sort. I hope that sooner or later, we will understand that promotion of scientific thought and culture cannot be achieved without the “true” contribution of media towards science.