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Scientists announce competition for students to counter Modi govt-funded ‘cow science’ projects

Students in the competition can write a research proposal on which ‘cow-science’ claim they would like to test, experiments they would conduct to test the validity of such claims.

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New Delhi: A group of Indian scientists Wednesday launched a research proposal competition for students focusing on applying scientific scrutiny to pseudoscientific claims, a day after ThePrint reported that Union Science and Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has asked ministries to fast-track approval for research projects on indigenous cows and its products. 

During an online review meeting Tuesday, Harsh Vardhan pulled up representatives of several ministries over the delay in approving and funding research projects that aim to scientifically validate the uniqueness of indigenous cows and their products under an inter-ministerial funding programme known as ‘Scientific Utilisation Through Research Augmentation Prime Products from Indigenous Cows (SUTRA-PIC)’.

The fresh push for SUTRA-PIC has led to scientists fearing that it may lead to poorly-designed research projects. 

“While doing science outreach, we may come across many individuals of the general population, who are ill-informed about the modern scientific process,” the scientists have written in the document announcing the competition. 

According to the scientists, people often harbour misgivings about the scientific community and believe that scientists simply dismiss such claims about “cow-science” due to a “western bias”. 

“Though most claims by supporters of ‘cow-science’ can be falsified through logical scientific arguments, from an outreach point of view, a higher percentage of people can be either persuaded to perform rigorous ‘cow-science’ or at least denounce those claims where rigorously conducted correlations or causation are missing — the scientific way to lay these claims to rest,” they have written. 

The competition is being organised by a group of scientists and educationists affiliated to various premier higher education and research institutions such as the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), IISER Kolkata, Tata Institute of Social Sciences and the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences in Bangalore. 

This, however, isn’t the first opposition to the SUTRA-PIC project. 

The programme was launched in February last year, inviting scientists to carry out research on primary products of indigenous cows, including urine and dung, with an aim to develop personal care products such as toothpaste, shampoos and mosquito repellents as well as look for cures to diseases like cancer and diabetes.

But when the call for funding opportunities was floated, a group of scientists had sent a letter, with over 500 signatures, to the government, expressing concern that such a broadly worded call for proposals will open the door for many poorly-designed studies, which they said would result in one-sided experiments to confirm predetermined conclusions. 

A few of the signatories are among those who have launched the competition. 

Competition as govt not heeding scientific advice

According to Aniket Sule, a researcher at TIFR who has been actively involved in scientific outreach, the competition was announced because the previous letter to the Department of Science and Technology (DST) against such projects did not bring any response from the government. 

“The only way to defeat bad science would be to contrast it with good science. We are hoping that the students who can think rationally will showcase some good proposals,” Sule told ThePrint. 

The proposals will help create a resource for outreach against research projects that are conducted for the sake of political points, he said. 

He added that students can write a research proposal explaining which ‘cow-science’ claim they would like to test, the theoretical arguments in support of or against such claims, experiments they would conduct to test the validity of such claims and so forth. 

Students of any age can send their entries to by 15 May. 

Although scientists do not have the means to actually fund these research proposals, the winners will be given a reward paid out of the scientists’ own pockets. 

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)

Also read: Govt cow agency cites test report to claim cow dung chips ‘reduce’ caesium radioactivity


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  1. Kudos to these scientists coming forward to put their own money on this. Doing experiments and publishing findings in reputed journals costs time and money, but in the end if it falsifies claims, it is well worth the effort. I hope at least some students in IISc, IISER and other science colleges take this up seriously to apply scientific methods to counter claims in Indian society on a continuous basis.

  2. Cow products have been used in indigenous medical practice for
    many centuries. It is indeed time to test this in a scientific manner without bias. Best left to scientific community and not the government. It should be in a time bound scale.

  3. These Print Science journalists have better understanding of science than you political party propaganda types have. They have may “failed” science and math but Science reporters at Print have more science sense than the people in political power who “passed” science and math!

  4. Hari Om,
    Very nice to hearing Cow Science by Govt. Of India. If our scientists can work on cow sciences it will bring many Noble Prize because our scientists can not copy or paste paper from other countries .

  5. God save this country and it’s cow science. It’s pathetic to even look at such idiocracy. This is what happens when illiterate ministers lead a country riddled with middle age superstitions.

    • It’s all about the “cow” vote bank. It is not about science.
      Politics and winning elections is behind everything that this government or any other government does.

  6. Adopting scientific methods to test the veracity of several claims of cow products is a scientific approach that must be encouraged.

    • Poorly designed studies can lead to wrong conclusions. If scientists seek to falsify a cow science claim, their studies should meet high global standards and peer review in reputed journals. On the other hand watch out there may be some (hopefully few) scrupulous scientists who might perform studies designed to justify cow science claims in order to further their own careers under the present political dispensation. In the end, I just hope taxpayers money is not wasted if the studies become wasted and useless due to poor design. Be absolutely clear and specific about what claim you are testing.

  7. Science is all about innovation, discovery and invention. NOT trying to prove something or someone wrong. What we disard as unscientific could be centuries old meaningful insight.

    • We should respect our ancestors and the things they did, but modern science has come very far since the 15th and 16th century even though it is just 4 centuries old.

      Scientifically validating old beliefs or remedies does not mean we disregard our ancestors. Our ancestors were limited by the knowledge of Nature they had during their times. They certainly accomplished whatever best they could with their limitations. Now there could be some truth and some falsities in old beliefs or remedies. It is always beneficial to examine ancient knowledge in new light of modern scientific methods so that we can gain a better understanding of what works and what really does not work for human health and well being. Just 100 years ago, the infant mortality rate was so high and average life expectancy was so low worldwide. The improvements in these parameters would not have been possible without the scientific methods of inquiry.

    • Indians in general are not rationalistic thinkers. They tend to believe in superstition and just follow customs without questioning.
      This is more so in smaller cities, towns and villages.
      Claims such as cow products claiming to treat psoriasis, leprosy etc. must be scientifically investigated. Otherwise our society will continue being where it is.

  8. ☺️☺️☺️☺️☺️ yar some one ask jogi y he is bald yet,?

    You may be knowing he drinks gau mutra

  9. How low will these scientists go to defend the growth of Ayurveda. Nobody has guts to talk of efficacy of covid vaccine produced by these scientists even after deaths and disease have been reported. Does ” The Print” have got guts to point out that. These petty news houses would even see India if they can earn some money. Disgusting article in all respects!

  10. Cow science is a science written in details in Ayurveda.
    The details are stolen from our scriptures. Given the whitewash and brought back to you guys in India. Can’t be fooled any more. When the United Nations chief acknowledges of our scriptures full of science and we ridicule ourselves.
    Go to your ownselves rather than just being copycart of the west. Work on Ayurveda.

  11. Good if scientists do some research to disprove or prove the benefits of cows to humans and environment. Every one with litte brain and eyes can see all the milk and milk products we are consuming, scientists should find out if pigs milk, dogs milk or any other animal (other than buffalo, goat) milk can replace cows milk. Some eat cow’s meat , scientists should find out and people should think of eating dogs, pigs or other animals other than Cow/bull, goat/sheep. Cows/bulls are used for farming and for pulling carts and for other things that help humans, scientists should come up with a list of other animals that can be used in farming (tractors are there but not every one can afford). Cow dung cakes are used as fuel for cooking in villages, cow dung is used to generate electricity, gas, scientists should find out if pigs/dogs or any other animals poo can replace cow dung. These are simple benefits of cows which we can see, there are many benefits which an ordinary brain cannot understand or eyes can see. If scientists cannot replace the benefits of cow with some other animals then should shutup.

    • No one doubts the benefits of the cow.
      The cow serves people everywhere in the world . Like sheep, horses and dogs, cows have been domesticated by man for his benefit.

      Now what do you think the scientists are organizing a competition for?

  12. This is a good initiative. All this rubbish cow-bow- science has to be falsified. They waste billions of rupees of Indians to satisfy their communal fantasy. They don’t have any other work to do. They never think of inflation, rising unemployment, rising poverty, farmers woes & many other things that require urgent attention. What they are obsessed is China, Pakistan, Musalman, Cow urine and their communal PR agenda. All rubbish…no governance, just a big tamasha, that’s all is Modi raaj.

  13. Santana Dharma is not anti science. Swami Vivekananda asked Tata to start the present day Indian institute of science. Hope our ministers read Swami Vivekananda who rejected dogma and encouraged scientific enquiry.

    • Advaita Vedanta is about inquiry into the nature of the human mind. It is about exploring one’s spirtual world.

      Science explores the material (physical) world, not the spiritual world.

      In what way can Sanatana Dharma explore and explain the physical nature of the world?

  14. Ultimately This leads to air the phenomenon of bringing up cow for Cow Industry .People will be religiously blackmailed to prepare for increase the number of livestock ,leads to sustain the Industry in epidemic.

  15. Santana Dharma is not anti science. In fact Advaita Vedanta encourages observation and investigation. Swami Vivekananda asked Tata to start the present day Indian institute of science and he refused the institute to be named after him. Hope our ministers read Swami Vivekananda who rejected dogma and encouraged scientific enquiry.

  16. Brown scientists are a laughing stock for sure.

    No significant achievements in almost 70 years.

    Have they just studied the Hindu calendar they would have got somewhere.

    Here the effort is to develop processes and procedures to discredit cow science. Wow just wow how systematically and scientifically you can go low.

    For these brown scientist surgery is part of allopathic system while centuries ago sushrata was performing in jungle.

    What a failure. and abject treatment of native wisdom.

    • Well, after a great lot of research on Indian Cow, my findings are as follows:
      It’s really great in comparison to cows found anywhere in the world.. First & foremost it’s very beautiful to look at & serves as a Mother with her milk to us besides it’s urine is being used as medicine, a number of Beauty products, which are made available across the counter in all over the country by our Yog Guru famous Vaid Baba Ramdev. Even cancer could be cured, according to him.

      It’s really a wonderful mother-like living creature which offers her poop Free of cost such could be smeared on faces to get rid of pimples even one could force the urchins to eat if they try to steal mangoes from the garden. Besides, if you just run your palms with love, clockwise on its back, hypertension could be cured very easily according to one of our political leader’s personal experience.

      Further it keeps wagging her tail to shove off the flies but at times it also teaches a lesson with her legs who try to tease her or try to steal her milk.

      Furthermore it earns a lot of foreign exchange for the country standing as No. 1 by provides beef for export alongwith her husband the bull but doesn’t allow the local public with the same.

      Above all it provides us with its lovely off-springs for our children to play with.

    • Sweeping statements about Indian scientists and their contributions. According to you it looks like science started in India after 2014.

      Do you even know the basis of science? Science is based on falsifying ideas through the scientific method. It’s good some scientists ( yes, they are Hindus) value the scientific method and are willing to test claims. Even though these scientists are employees of the government, they are showing themseleves to be true scientists first and employees next.

      If you think modern medicine can’t hold a candle to ancient Indian medicine, keep taking your concoctions recommended by the Central govt ministries and keep coronavirus at bay. Best of luck! And maybe you should not trust vaccination. Save the vaccine for someone else who has faith in the vaccines of modern medicine.

  17. Good initiative. Indian research labs which are dens of academic mediocrity and an entitled ‘science’ bureaucracy living off tax payers money is finally taking some initiative. After failing to make any significant contributions to science or even coming out with a single original idea or innovation, maybe it’s a good idea to handover the baton to youngsters. Much better then recycling what has originated in the West to get some pat’s on the back, foreign trips and a chance to publish in foreign journals. This must be the first such public initiative from these institutions who otherwise are locked up in their ivory towers, doing work deemed too good for the ordinary masses to understand.

    • Who according to you is not mediocre in India?

      Many Indians pursue science for a job, not because they like rationalism or scientific inquiry. If we were a rationalist society we would have been a developed society much earlier.

  18. I find it surprising the amount of Contempt amongst McCaulay’s children to anything native. Why should Ayurveda not be researched and systematized? why should we not study systematically all home remedies and see if they really have any value? Why not? The fact that you are writing in contempt about a legitimate quest, says you really do not understand what science is about. Some of these Journalists should stop commenting on science. You are journalists because you failed science and math. Let us remember that!!!!

    • No. The scientists want the students / researchers to produce projects on cows that are actually scientific and not just research proposals saying scriptures say she is gau maata and so all is well.

  19. Pure third rate politics. How can the “students” be so discerning and “scientifically” invalidate “scientifically” validated observations. Some individuals of the above institutes cannot be the final arbiters. Unworthy artcle.

  20. I doubled checked the date to make sure this was not ani April Fool’s prank.

    Look, I’m all for verifying claims through a thorough scientific process, but do we really need to research cow urine for cancer? Skin care, I understand. Cosmetic uses, sure, but spending taxpayers money to research cow byproducts for cancer is a big too much.

    • Funding Researche on Cow Products is any day better than funding PHDs on African Studies. 🙄

  21. Really this is shameful – we seem to have utter nincompoops running science and finance ministries. They are doing a disservice to Sanatan Dharm which is a unique religion in the world which promotes science. Pseudo science is not Sanatan Dharm.

    • So why does this society lag in scientific research output and engineering/medical research output?

      Are the British and Muslim invaders to blame for this poor quality of output? Oh wait…forgot to include the 70 years of the secularists!

  22. This is pure madness. Instead, students should focus on research related to coronavirus disease.

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