Monday, April 06, 2009

Perspectives on academic science in India


Several different comparisons (unfortunately, all of them are with US universities, for which data are easily available). They all paint the same picture.

  1. Let's start with Giridhar's post:

    ... IISc and IITs are often compared with the top universities of USA. As a country, India published 43 articles in Science for the ten year period of 2000-2009 (this includes several articles which had a foreign collaborator). A single university, MIT, published 291 articles in the same period. The numbers are almost exactly the same for publications in Nature (45 and 295).

  2. Next, from Prof. P. Balaram's editorial in a recent issue of Current Science [BTW, this editorial is almost entirely about the contents "The biological sciences in India: Aiming high for the future" by Ronald Vale and Karen Dell in the Journal of Cell Biology]:

    ... Vale and Dell point to some of these. They note that the total number of faculty in the biological sciences in 20 of India’s key institutions is ‘less than the number of faculty holding NIH grants at the University of California, San Francisco’. The number of postdoctoral fellows in Indian laboratories is very small and they note that the ‘University of California, San Francisco alone has ~1100 postdoctoral fellows’, a number considerably larger than the total number in all the modern biology laboratories in India.

  3. In an analysis of Budget-2007, I estimated that extramural support from the government for scientific research in Indian universities is less than about 450 million US dollars. I compared this figure with some NSF data on US universities: there were 20 US universities that had an R&D spending of 450 million dollars each in 2004-05.

    [Two things to keep in mind:

    (a) The US figures would include salaries for students, post-docs and even faculty. The Indian figure would not.

    (b) The figures for India would have changed quite substantially in the last couple of years; similarly, those for the US would also have changed somewhat since 2005. But the broad picture would still be the same: there are probably a dozen US universities each of whose R&D budget exceeds the academic R&D budget for all of India.]

16 Comments:

  1. Giri@iisc said...

    I have compiled the statistics for a wide range of universities in USA, Europe, Asia etc. This study is funded by the government and I will put it in a report and then on my blog !

    Anyway,if you want some more comparison. Oxford published 201 in Science and 305 in Nature.

    All these numbers are articles published (not editorial material or book reviews or even reviews)

    Giridhar

  2. Subbiah said...

    NISTADS, a CSIR outfit based in New Delhi, has collected a large volume of publication and citation data. You may get the data from Dr Parthasarathi Banerjee, Director of NISTADS. I am sure NISTADS would soon bring out a report somewhat similar to the NSF report "Science and Engineering Indicators."

    The point is India is way behind the advanced countries in terms of number of papers published, number of papers published in leading journals, number of citations, number of citations per paper, and so on. We also do not have a large number of researchers - at the level of doctoral students, post-doctoral fellows and faculty holding regular positions in academic institutions and R&D labs.

    This has been the situation for a long time and things seem to be improving but rather slowly. Compared to India, China, South Korea and Brazil seem to be progressing faster. India's output, measured in terms of papers published in journals indexed in major databases such as the Web of Science, is hovering around 2.7% (certainly below 3%) of the world output, whereas China's research output has been rising fast and is currently around 10% or more.

    While this may be a matter for concern, one is even more concerned about standards of peer review, especially in deciding important awards.

  3. Anonymous said...

    Peer review in deciding awards in India? It is non-existent. It is only dependnt on the chairman of the committee.

    Kumar

  4. Anonymous said...

    I found this interesting link on research in networking by a faculty at iit powai. sounds like many people hitting the nail on its head!!

    http://ashwingumaste.blogspot.com/2009/02/cracking-nuts-and-bolts-of-telecom.html

  5. pradeepkumar said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
  6. pradeepkumar said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
  7. pradeepkumar said...

    Those who are very much interested in the statistics of publications in the so called High impact journals may want to look at the following articles by Peter Lawarence from Cambridge

    (1) Politics pf Publications

    http://www.mrc-lmb.cam.ac.uk/PAL/pdf/politics.pdf

    (2) Lost in Publication

    http://www.mrc-lmb.cam.ac.uk/PAL/pdf/e008pp6.pdf

  8. L said...

    Re. Prof Balaram's article, he talks about lack of good technicians. College education does not teach technical skills. Perhaps i should modify that statement.... it teaches students to get 'right result'only.
    (I keep saying this)
    Very few students take the trouble to get the 'right answer' by learning good lab techniques. Most just 'acquire' the 'right answer'

  9. Wavefunction said...

    What about error estimation? Another lost art

  10. Anonymous said...

    But also an important thing to see in this statistics would be number of "Indians" in the US who were involved in these stated 200-odd publications.

    No doubt, being in a great institute with Nobel Laureates around provides a ground for active discussion. But were those discussions turned into fruitful papers is as much important!!

  11. Anonymous said...

    The lower funding level probably explains the lower research output. But it would be interesting to categorize all such statisitic and analysis into computational/theoretical as opposed to experimental research. The picture maybe more grim wrt the latter. This area maybe an important area of growth in the future.

  12. Anonymous said...

    Well That's true - The statistics should show theoretical, computational and experimental separately to see where the lacking is in India. Also I would say that there are more institutes in the US where students are involved in research than in India (Eg: IISc etc). Even though IIT's might have PhD students - being from an IIT, I would say it's more about undergrads than full fledged research institute!!

    So a better comparison would be if one could pull out from the data as to how many institutes in India are contributing etc as well.

    Just comparing 40 in India to 200 in US is highly unscientific. I do not think that kind of a comparison would suit a scientist!!

  13. Anonymous said...

    I agree that analysis into computational/theoretical as opposed to experimental research publication may provide some understanding that where more improvement efforts are needed.

    On the other side a direct comparison of 40 to 200 may not suit to a scientist but the fact remains that overall productivity actually is very low.

    Most of the time I don't understand why we are not ready to accept that we are legging far behind compare to other similarly developing nations. My personal policy on 'complaining' is like this...accept the prima-fact, find the solutions, work hard and turn the statistics in our favor. And let others do this comparison that why the productivity in India is so high but not in their respective nations.

  14. Anonymous said...

    It's a good argument that we have to accept the facts. But also most of the process today seems to end at seeing the numbers. No further action is taken to make things better.

    (a) Students complain that there are too many entrance exams and prefer the simple format of GRE & Toefl to pursue the so called American Dream!
    (b) Faculty say "no quality students available" but unfortunately not everyone tries to pursue aggressively to get quality students.
    (c) Departments complain of lack of funding and show the fingers towards the students.

    I guess it begins at each individual faculty member to take up the responsibility to pursue more students to their research group and try to publish more, attend more quality conferences and try to give more talks etc.

  15. Anonymous said...

    It's a good argument that we have to accept the facts. But also most of the process today seems to end at seeing the numbers. No further action is taken to make things better.

    (a) Students complain that there are too many entrance exams and prefer the simple format of GRE & Toefl to pursue the so called American Dream!
    (b) Faculty say "no quality students available" but unfortunately not everyone tries to pursue aggressively to get quality students.
    (c) Departments complain of lack of funding and show the fingers towards the government.

    I guess it begins at each individual faculty member to take up the responsibility to pursue more students to their research group and try to publish more, attend more quality conferences and try to give more talks etc.

  16. Anonymous said...

    "I guess it begins at each individual faculty member to take up the responsibility to pursue more students to their research group and try to publish more, attend more quality conferences and try to give more talks etc."

    IIT/IISc professors do not want to train graduate students. Even famous professors in engineering in IISc have less than 2 to 3 doctorate students. The selection ratio of ph.d student in iisc is 10:1. This is because they do not want guide students.
    They would instead spend time in the coffee board and tell that no good ph.d student is available.

    Kumar