Friday, June 12, 2009

India's scientific output: An assessment


SciDev.net's T. V. Padma reports on an analysis by Prof. Subbiah Arunachalam:

India has been 'limping behind' in science publishing rankings over the past decade ... The warning follows an analysis of the total number of science and social science papers published by countries during the period 1 January 1999–31 October 2008 in journals indexed in Web of Science.

While China — ranked fifth in the index — has jumped from 1.5 per cent of the world share in 1988–1993 to 6.2 per cent between 1999 and 2008, "India has limped" from just 2.5 to 2.6 per cent during the same time frame, observes Subbiah Arunachalam, a scientist with the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation and former editor of one of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research's journals.

Brazil, South Korea, and Taiwan have also recorded a much higher growth rate than India, he notes.

"India has a long way to go. Mere ambition to become a knowledge power is not enough," Arunachalam, who tracks India's annual scientific publication performance, told SciDev.Net.

"When we recruit new faculty we do not give them sufficient funds and other infrastructure such as lab space," Arunachalam says. "Where will they get bright students unless the schools are strengthened? Processes take time and you cannot compress them into here and now. Long term planning is necessary."

3 Comments:

  1. Chitta said...

    The IISERs and NISER will help. I was reading some messages in their communities. Couple of students in one IISER who hated Biology in high school loved it at that IISER and choose it as their major. Examples like that goes to show that good science teaching/mentoring/exposure at an earlier stage will help a lot.

    I wish this went down further to the 8-12th grade level. In particular, more students at that level need to be properly exposed to science and protected from the coaching classes.

    However I have not found many takers of the suggestion to have science magnet (high) schools across the country.

  2. karatalaamalaka said...

    It is indeed a major concern that India's research output is not proportional to its size and traditional excellence in science. However, one should view the China (mainland, i.e) numbers with some skepticism. I have stumbled upon a rather large volume of junk/plagiarized journals/papers from China that have been indexed on Web of Science. I will avoid making any generalizations as we have no idea how much percentage these papers account for. However, if we study the numbers keeping the 'quality' constant (say, by looking at these numbers for some particular high-impact journal) it should give us a better idea how far India is lagging behind. Here is a rather crude analysis- I searched for all articles in PRL in 2004 and 2005, and in Nature from 2003-2005:

    Physical Review Letters 2004-2005

    Total citations: 199,054
    Total Papers

    '85-86 '88-89 '92-'93
    USA - 2262 2217 2610
    China - 9 28 42
    India - 26 36 62




    '94-95 '98-99 '04-'05
    USA - 2641 2746 3568
    China - 35 19 409
    India - 82 54 196


    '96- '97 India 104, China 64

    '99-'00
    USA - 2914
    China - 122
    India - 118


    '00-'01 '01-'02 '02-'03
    USA - 2987 2926 2891
    China - 187 222 280
    India - 142 163 170





    Nature papers published between 2003-2005

    Total papers- 7999
    Total citations- 372,365
    Citations per paper - 46.55

    Total Papers
    ('97,'98,'99) ('03,'04,'05)
    USA - 3185 3171
    China - 17 86
    India - 13 32



    India is still way way behind China. However, another interesting observation is, as expected most of the industrialized countries in Western Europe, South Korea and Japan consistently figure above China, even in terms of the total number of papers published in these journals.

    From the data for PRL, the point where China overtook India (gradually!) is 2000, till when India had more papers in PRL than China, and from then on, China has raced ahead!

    I will make a more detailed analysis along these lines, and I should guess that if we did the same to all prestigious journals in different fields, we will see some sort of a pattern, some problems and it will give us an idea about where/how/when India missed the bus.

    I would be surprised if there is no MHRD report along these lines yet, for an honest evaluation of India's performance in research.

  3. Ajay said...

    I would say that this is a good article but I have a few comments.

    1. Its important to compare the scientific output in terms of papers in the so-called "peer-reviewed" journals. But I don't think it is just those above numbers that matter. But as a lot of top researchers have voiced - science & research is about improving the life of people. Here is an interesting piece from Fenyman -

    2. So I think the above data is fine - nice to see & compare ourself to US/China etc. But we need more quantitative data about how research has changed the life of people in India. As to how many people graduate from Masters/PhD's? How innovative was the thesis & did it make any change? What are they doing after the degree? Has that made a significant improvement in the sector they are involved in? Based on this what is the change we need to bring upon to make things better.

    The above set of number are nice to gaze upon but what can we do just seeing that data. How could we force our researchers to produce more Nature/Science/PRL papers when we do not know what we need to improve upon?

    Again the whole concept of "prestigious journals" is being debated today with a lot of top researchers critisizing sharply about the lobbying and politics that is involved to some extent!

    So overall I opinion that the above data is more of a junk.