Thursday, March 31, 2011

Chemistry in Asia

Now that the India-Pakistan game is over, I guess we can get back to normal life. [My heart goes out to Misbah-ul-Haq, though. How can the same shit happen to the same man twice -- last man out against India in the final of the T-20 World Cup in 2007, and now this, the semi-final in this ODI World Cup].

While I'm not a big fan of scientometrics [mainly because their use is inappropriate in 'judging' the contributions of individuals], I do see their value in comparisons as long as (a) they are confined to single subject areas, and (b) they involve larger entities (such as departments, institutions, or even countries). With (a), we can avoid inappropriate comparisons -- e.g., between Courant Institute of Mathematical and Cold Springs Harbor Laboratory -- across fields with different citation practices. And with (b), we will have better and more meaningful statistics due to larger numbers of publications and citations.

Science Watch has a comparative table that meets these two conditions. So, go have a look at the ranking of Asia-Pacific Nations in Chemistry, 2000-2010.

The ranking is in terms of citations per paper; only Singapore (~citations per paper), Australia (12.5) and Japan (~12) do better than the world average (~11). Singapore, the Asia-Pacific topper, is actually ranked 12th in the world. India and China have about 7 citations per paper, and are ranked, respectively, 8th and 9th in Asia, and 38th and 39th in the world; however, China out-publishes India by a factor of nearly 3!

I still have a quibble. This report is a snapshot. I would much prefer an analysis of how the countries have done over the years; for example, the same data -- spanning 11 years, from 2000 to 2010 -- could have been analyzed for five consecutive 6-year periods, starting with 2000-05, all the way up to 2005-10. Such an analysis is better at describing which way each country is headed.

Of course, for policy makers, what would be even better is a sub-field level analysis, which could help identify a country's strong areas as well as weak areas.

Oh well, this is all we have for now.