By Vinod Varshney
A dedicated science journalist from India Pallava Bagla has won the American Geophysical Union's “David Perlman Award” for Excellence in Science Journalism for his revelation of a shocking fraud related to the impact of climate change on Himalayan glaciers. His story not only put the Nobel Prize winning organization United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to shame but also raked a hotly contested international controversy which took many months to settle and finally the people responsible for the fraud had to lick the dust.
This is what good journalism can do and this is what is needed more and more. The Perlman Award selection committee rightly applauded Pallava, saying “ His articles serve as a reminder to journalists to question sources, to think harder about the agendas and ideas of those people about whom they are reporting, and to stop the steamroller of opinions or ideas when the facts just don't back them up.”
This is not the first time that Pallava Bagla created by his articles ripples among scientists and scientific institutions. He had for example in 1998 questioned the claims of Indian nuclear scientists about the intensity of the Pokhran II nuclear blasts. His doubts were never contradicted by the Indian nuclear establishment though they became a hotly debated issue internationally among scientists and dipomats both, after publication of his article on this issue in the US magazine Science.
Its echo rang during the Indo-US Nuclear Deal when many politicians who were opposing the deal tooth and nail gave the argument that India’s thermo-nuclear test was not a complete success and India needed to do further tests for the sake of developing an effective nuclear deterrent against China.
To question official information is Pallava’s journalistic trait which got honed by Science magazine which has rigorous standards. Had he remained with Science Reporter, a government of India publication, where he started his journalistic career, he would certainly have become the editor of the magazine, but would have hardly been able to do any of the stories which have brought him laurels today.
Hope the Government of India will honour him with Padma Shree sooner than later.