New Delhi: China has zoomed ahead of India in scientific research output, according to a study that’s likely to reinforce concern among Indian policymakers about the country’s widening gap with its Asian neighbour in science and technology.
India was 10th among 20 countries in terms of research published between 1996 and 2006, eight places behind second-ranked China, according to the study by the National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies (Nistads). While China improved its ranking from No. 9 in 1996, India moved up from No. 13.
In that decade, China powered ahead with a 20.74% growth rate in published research, a popular yardstick by which institutions and policymakers judge progress in science and technology. India’s growth rate was 7.02%, trailing even South Korea (14.16%) and Brazil (12.04%).
“In case India has to catch up with China, it has to quadruple its publications growth rate to at least 30% per annum by 2010,” said B. M. Gupta, lead author of the study and a professor at Nistads, an arm of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
Only 2.4% of total research publications are from India, a quarter that of China’s 10.49% share, according to the study that used a database called Scopus, which hosts more than 15,000 international peer-reviewed journals in science and technology and the proceedings of global conferences.
Previous international comparisons have used Web of Science, another database, that over-represents American journals and doesn’t adequately capture Indian output, according to Gupta.
A study called the Kostoff report—based on publication data between 1980 and 2005 and the most comprehensive yet—had alarmed top scientists, including C. N. R. Rao, head of the science advisory council to the Prime Minister.
“...We are way below China, which contributes around 12% to world science (compared with our less than 3%),” Rao had said. “The decrease of high impact papers from India is of serious concern.”
The report prepared by Ronal Kostoff, a scientist at the US Naval Research Laboratory, said China and India were level till 1995.
This study, for the first time, also takes an introspective look at progress in published research within the country. Universities and research institutions in Tamil Nadu accounted for nearly 17.3% of India’s publication output in 2006, followed by Delhi and Karnataka at 15.17% and 13.83%, respectively. States such as Jharkhand, Puducherry, Goa and Chhattisgarh scored poorly in publication output.
Institutions such as the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, University of Delhi, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, and the Indian Institutes of Technology were the largest contributors to research publication output.
“It’s very evident from this study that the economic prosperity of states is tied to their S&T (science and technology) infrastructure and performance in their publication output,” Gupta said.
While questions on India’s scientific productivity have been raised by policymakers, the lack of adequate funding is often cited as an excuse. India’s spending on science and technology is 0.8% of gross domestic product (GDP), compared with China’s 1.23%, science and technology minister Kapil Sibal has told Parliament.“Unless private research and universities come up in a big way, the situation will continue,” he added.