After several consecutive years of minimal increase through the 1980s and
90s, India's output of scientific papers has risen sharply since 2000.
Concurrently, the citation impact of the nation's published research in
main fields has been trending upward in recent years.
To assess India-based science, Science Watch turned to the
National Science Indicators and its
collection of publication and citation statistics. The first
graph(1) records the
number of papers indexed by Thomson Reuters for each year between
1985 and 2007 that listed at least one India-based institution among
the author addresses. In 1985, the number was approximately 12,500,
and for the next 15 years the total never much exceeded 14,000.
Around the year 2000, however, the number began to tick upwards,
rising to nearly 17,000 in 2001, reaching 20,000-plus in 2003, and
winding up at more than 27,000 in 2007.
Currently, India's largest percent share of any main field indexed by
Thomson Reuters is in the Multidisciplinary category (comprising papers
published in the multidisciplinary journals Science,
Nature, PNAS, etc.), with 5.47% of papers in that
field indexed in the cumulative five-year period between 2003 and 2007.
Close behind is Materials Science, in which India's 9,212 papers in the
last five years constitute 5.45% of the field.
Materials Science, in fact, is the field in which India displays the
steepest growth in representation during the period covered by
National Science Indicators. In 1981, only 432 Thomson
Reuters-indexed materials papers included an India institutional
address—3.68% of the field. In 2007, nearly 2,300 papers with
India-based authors were indexed, a share of 6.13%.
India's share of world papers, in the latest five-year period, was also
comparatively high in Agricultural Sciences (5.17% of the database),
Chemistry (5.04%), and Physics (3.88%).
Physics, as it happens, features prominently in the next set of
graphs(2), which plot the
nation's relative citation impact (that is, India's citations-per-paper
average compared against the world average in each respective field) in
14 main fields in a series of overlapping periods from 1985 through
In the top graph(2), which
covers the physical sciences, India's upward trend in Physics is
clearly discernible. For the latest five-year period, ending in 2007,
India's relative-impact score stands at 80% of the field average (3.13
cites per paper, versus the world mark of 3.96)—a substantial
improvement over the 1985-89 period, when India's relative impact in
Physics was at 40%, less than half the world average. In the same
graph, India's impact in Engineering and in Chemistry are also trending
upward and approaching parity with the world mark.
The other graphs tell a similar story: although the impact of
India-based research lags the world average in the fields shown, the
nation has been on a discernible upswing since roughly the year 2000,
with notable gains in, for example,
Biology & Biochemistry.
For another snapshot of India's current concentration in science,
Science Watch consulted Thomson Reuters'
Essential Science Indicators web resource
and its unique database of Research Fronts—specialty areas
defined by a "core" of foundational papers that have been frequently
cited together by a group of subsequent reports.
Science Watch identified upwards of 250 Research Fronts in
which India-based institutions figured among the core literature. The
majority of these fronts, conforming to the trends noted above, fall
within the physical sciences. As it happens, the Research Front
displaying the highest proportion of Indian institutions among its core
papers is devoted to black holes and related aspects involving entropy,
supersymmetry, and string theory. An author whose name recurs among the
core papers is
Ashoke Sen of the Harish-Chandra Research
Institute in Allahabad, who was interviewed in these pages last year
(Science Watch, 18: 3-4,
May/June 2007). Sen's name also figures among
the core authors in another of the most India-centric
fronts—this one devoted to tachyon cosmology.
In sum, all but three of the top ten Research Fronts with the highest
representation of India institutions concern high-energy or theoretical
physics. The exceptions are one front dealing with the adsorptive
removal of dyes and other hazardous materials from aqueous solutions
(see Research Front
Map 1), another devoted to the study of stress
caused by water deficit and salinity in Catharanthus roseus
and other plants (see Research Front
Map 2), and a third centering on conducting
polymers and their use in biosensors.
Still another aspect of India's progression since the early 1980s
involves the nation's increasing presence in international science. In
1981, more than 95% of Thomson Reuters-indexed papers from India
featured authors exclusively at India-based institutions, with no other
nations listed. By 2007, the percentage of "India only" papers had
fallen to 80%, indicating that, albeit gradually thus far, the nation
is moving toward greater participation in world science.
Christopher King is the Editor of the Science
Watch® Newsletter, Thomson Reuters.
Keywords: India, science in India, research in India, Indian science,