Padmanaban G. "Has Indian Science Slowed Down?" Current Science, 83(9):1055, November 10 2002

Eugene Garfield garfield at CODEX.CIS.UPENN.EDU
Tue Nov 26 13:09:06 EST 2002

G. Padmanaban :  e-mail: geepee at

Title :       Has Indian Science Slowed Down?
Author:       Padmanaban G.
Journal       Current Science, 83(9):1055, November 10 2002

CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 83, NO. 9, 10 NOVEMBER 2002 1055

Has Indian science slowed down?
The article by Arunachalam (Curr. Sci., 2002, 83, 107–108) highlighting the
fall in the number of scientific publications from India, while China and
Korea have made substantial progress makes news for media, including Nature,
but sends somewhat of a superficial message. It is nobody’s case that the
universities are in a bad shape and that conclusion does not need macro- or
micro-level scientometric parameters. All along (at least for the period
under discussion), only about a dozen universities have been active in
research, taking life sciences as an example. Bulk of the research
publications have been from agency laboratories (CSIR, DST, DBT, DAE, ICMR)
and IISc. The mushroom growth of universities, especially the state
universities, has only catered to poor teaching and imperfect examination
exercise. I wonder whether there is any dramatic solution to change the
perspective and ethos of these universities without a political will. On the
other hand, it would be of importance to know whether the productivity of
agency laboratories and the dozen or so universities that have been
traditionally active in research, has come down. It is my perception that
the quality of research, at least in life sciences, has substantially
improved, thanks to consistent support from DBT, DST, CSIR and other
agencies. The frequency of papers published in high impact factor journals
seems to have significantly increased, if not in Science and Nature. This,
may account for the small decrease in the total number of publications,
since the tendency to publish a large number of small papers in
inconsequential journals is probably giving way to publishing complete
studies in good journals. It would be worthwhile to do an analysis
of the papers published in two-dozen top representative journals in each of
biology, physics and chemistry from India on a 5-year or 10-year basis for
the last 2 or 3 decades, and compare the same with those of China and Korea.
One realizes that indices such as impact factor and citation index have
their own limitations. For example, a laboratory from India might have
published a seminal paper some years ago. But, laboratories
in developed countries can quickly exploit the concept and soon write a
review on the same topic. Subsequently, everyone quotes the review and the
original paper from India is forgotten. Had the original paper been
published from a Western laboratory or with a pedigree from such a
laboratory, it would have become a citation classic! It is neither my
intention to build an alibi for the decrease in scientific output, nor do I
want to project a doomsday for Indian science. It is essential to project
positive developments in Indian science as well. A matter of concern is the
large number of unfilled vacancies and the policy of a ban on recruitment in
agency laboratories and progressive universities, which could contribute to
lack of infusion of young blood and decreased scientific output. One should
concentrate not only on doing good science, but also on taking
the leads into useful applications, and the latter is a greater challenge
than the former. Most of us settle for the path of least resistance in the
name of doing good science.

Department of Biochemistry,
Indian Institute of Science,
Bangalore 560 012, India
e-mail: geepee at

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Eugene Garfield, PhD.  email: garfield at
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