India ‘limping’ in science publication rates

India has "limped" from just 2.5 to 2.6 per cent in the past 20 years Copyright: Flickr/xeeliz

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[NEW DELHI] India has been ‘limping behind’ in science publishing rankings over the past decade, a leading analyst of India’s scientific publication output has cautioned.

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.

The analysis was published by Thomson Reuters earlier this year. India is ranked twelfth in the index.

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.

Rogerio Meneghini, scientific coordinator of the Scientific Electronic Library Online, (SciELO ) says, "The increase in the Brazilian scientific production wasn’t by virtue of the increase of resources for research and education, but because of the increasing number of Brazilian journals indexed by ISI database. They were 26 in 2006, 63 in 2007 and 103 in 2008. Since ISI is the most prestigious scientific database in the world, these numbers tell us that the visibility of the Brazilian scientific production has increased."

Meneghini notes that the increase in the number of publications in indexed journals has occurred not only in Brazil, but also in Chile and Argentina.

"This can be viewed as a scientific policy assumed by ISI, which has been indexing more regional journals and focusing in key themes like climate, biodiversity and public health. These themes are particularly strong in the Brazilian scientific production, but not in countries like India or China, he adds.

"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."

Arunachalam told SciDev.Net he sounded the first warning of India’s stagnation in scientific publications as early as 2002 but it was largely ignored by the country’s science administrators.

The country has now started to take remedial measures by announcing new institutes for science education and research, new Indian Institutes of technology, and polytechnic institutes (see Indian plans boost next generation of scientists). But these "will take at least a decade to make a difference", says Arunachalam.

Link to full Current Science editorial [27kB]