The report said that while research publications in India has grown seven fold in last two decades, it is still far behind countries like China and the US. (Hindustan Times)
The report said that while research publications in India has grown seven fold in last two decades, it is still far behind countries like China and the US. (Hindustan Times)

India has far fewer researchers than China, US, says think tank

  • India has 216.2 researchers per 1 million inhabitants against 1,200 in China and 4,300 in the US, says report
  • India spends less than 1% of its GDP on R&D, while South Korea spends 4.23%, and China 2.11%

NEW DELHI : India has proportionately about 18% the number of researchers China has, 5% that of the US, and 3% that of South Korea, policy think-tank Brookings India said in a report on Wednesday.

India has 216.2 researchers per one million inhabitants, against 1,200 in China, 4,300 in the US, and 7,100 in South Korea, according to the report.

A high density of researchers has a direct correlation with the quality of education in a country and how it benefits industries and thus the economy.

“China and South Korea’s increased expenditure on research and policy reforms has resulted in a manifold increase in researchers in the two countries. The US has seen a steady rise in its research capacity," said the report, Reviving Higher Education in India.

India spends less than 1% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on research and development (R&D), while South Korea spends more than 4.23%, and China 2.11%, according to the report prepared by a team of experts led by Shamika Ravi, director of research at Brookings India.

India and China were spending almost similar portion (0.6%) of their GDP on R&D in 1996 but two decades later China’s expenditure on R&D jumped by more than four-fold whereas India’s expenditure remained largely static, the findings show. The Brookings India report comes at a time the country is witnessing growing strife on campuses over several issues, including fee hikes. In Delhi, students of the Jawaharlal Nehru University have been protesting for more than a month over a fee hike, alleging that the government and the varsity administration are looking to spend less on public education.

The report says that while research publications in India has grown seven-fold in last two decades, it is still far behind countries such as China and the US. While China produces 483,595 research publications annually, the number in India is 148,832.

Despite an increase in publications, low citation impact as indicated by ‘citations per document’ implies that the quality of Indian research papers is not on par with that of other countries. The relative impact of citations for India is half of that of the world average. “As one of the lowest-income countries in the world at the turn of the 21st century, China’s rise to becoming a super-power in scientific knowledge in less than two decades is remarkable. India should make efforts to replicate the same," the report said. It underlined that the low research capacity is also getting refected in patent applications. India filed 14,961 patent applications in 2017, while China filed 1.24 million applications in the same year.

The other key factor behind poor research performance of Indian higher educational institutions, as per the report, has been the lack of rewards for researchers. The exact incentives Indian researchers get is not clear. However, the report says that “cash-per-publication" has become common in China with academics being awarded over $100,000 per paper published in “top Western journals" such as Lancet and Nature, which is 20 times the annual salary of an average academic".

The findings have come on a day when the President of India Ram Nath Kovind urged the country’e education sector to reform keeping in mind the future needs of the world. “The world of tomorrow will be driven by knowledge...We have to recast our higher education with new courses and deeper research orientation. Ideation, innovation and incubation should be given primacy in our curriculum," Kovind said at the Ficci Higher Education Summit in New Delhi.

India’s higher education sector is one of the largest in the world with more than 51,000 institutions and universities. However, despite the increased access to higher education, low employability of graduates, poor quality of teaching, weak governance, insufficient funding, and complex regulatory norms continue to plague the sector.

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