New Delhi, Sept. 12: India’s research output measured through its scientific papers has improved over the past decade but four in 10 research papers by Indian scientists remain uncited, a report has said.
The first government-commissioned independent analysis of research by Indian scientists has found that the country’s share of world research output has modestly increased from 3.1 per cent in 2007 to 3.7 per cent in 2011.
The analysis by Thomson Reuters Intellectual Property and Science division suggests that between 2007 and 2011, China’s research output — 10 per cent of the world’s share —was ranked second to America’s 29 per cent.
The report, incorporated by India’s department of science and technology (DST) into its own study of research publication trends, shows that the country’s citation impact — an indicator of the significance or quality of research —has improved from 0.35 relative to the world average of 1.0 during 1981 to 0.7 during 2011.
But the exercise has also revealed that about 44 per cent of papers by Indian scientists remained uncited between 2007 and 2011. The lack of citations implies that scientific peers are overlooking or ignoring these papers.
The department has said the relatively low citation measures in areas such as plant and animal sciences, molecular biology, geosciences and only moderate levels of citations in biology and medicine “calls for special attention”.
“This is a cause for concern, but we need to keep in mind that many factors influence citations,” said Subhash Lakhotia, a senior scientist at Banaras Hindu University, who has been involved in efforts to reform science education.
Publication of papers in obscure journals, for instance, is unlikely to draw plenty of citations. “We should also ask ourselves how many Indian scientists cite other Indian scientists — citing each other builds citations,” Lakhotia said.
India’s citation measures for research papers in molecular biology during 2006-10 stood at 0.47 compared to the world average of 1.0, while papers on plant and animal sciences had even lower citation of 0.46.
“The overall trend shows an increase in both the number and the quality of publications,” said Thirumalachari Ramasami, DST secretary. “Over the last 10 years, we’ve made up what we lost during the previous two decades.”
The analysis has identified engineering, physics and materials sciences as areas in which India has a higher world share compared to its average world share and a higher citation compared to its average citation.
The citation measures for engineering, for instance, steadily climbed from 0.52 relative to the world average of 1.0 in the period 1981-85 to 0.67 in 1993-97, to 0.95 in 2006-10.
“In engineering, India’s citation level is close to the world average,” said David Pendlebury, a consultant with Thomson Reuters who specialises in analysing trends in research publications and citations.
Some analysts believe research publications from elite engineering schools such as the Indian Institutes of Technology might account for this growth in the citation levels of engineering papers.
The DST report has suggested an improvement in the quality of PhD-level training, a performance-related incentive scheme and a grant-mode funding based on track record to further raise the quality of research output.
“Some of these are under consideration,” Ramasami said.
The DST has also acknowledged a need to stimulate research in India’s universities. “This is crucial — the bulk of young science students are in universities, not in research institutions or laboratories,” said Lakhotia.