IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis

In Stanford ranking, hope for Indian science

9th December, 2020 Editorial

Context: India is at the origin of everything; intellectually, religiously or politically where even the Greek heritage seems pale in comparison’.

  • Ancient India has made contributions to several complex and present-day scientific achievements.
  • There is an apparent dip in the performance of Indian scientists in the contemporary world is concerned.
  • If one is to look at a new report, by Stanford University, U.S. on the world ranking of scientists it paints a positive picture and shows there are definite signs of Indian scientists regaining lost ground.

A comprehensive database

  • Scientists at Stanford University, led by John Ioannidis, have created a database of 1,59,683 (top 2%) scientists of the world, based on standard indicators such as information on citations, h-Index, co-authorship and a composite indicator.
  • This database systematically ranks all the scientists across the world with such accuracy and depth. From India, 1,594 Indians have made it to the list of top 2% scientists in the world.
  • An appraisal of the report, which includes disciplines of science, technology, medicine and allied areas, shows certain significant trends.
  • Scientists from government-supported institutions have shown supremacy in the disciplines of science and technology, whereas scientists from private institutions find more place in the disciplines of medicine and allied areas.
  • An analysis of the report shows that there is an equitable distribution of scientists working in institutions in urban and rural areas.

Government institutes score

  • From the entire list of disciplines, one finds that more than four-fifths of the scientists are from government-supported institutions that include institutions of national importance, central universities, State universities, and government-funded research institutions.
  • The conclusion is that the listings point to the outcome of freedom, flexibility and facilitation to the faculty in these institutions to carry out research on any relevant topic.
  • The practices of peer review, motivation to participate in international seminars, and incentivisation packages offered in these institutions are sure to have had a positive impact in this connection.

Outside the urban hub

  • A number of scientists from private colleges and other institutions even from the remote areas have managed to find a place in the list.
  • A number of conventional and modern disciplines, thereby showing the reach and the extent of the performance of these scientists beyond the centres of excellence.
  • Several institutions located in remote areas highlights the professional excellence and equitable sharing of excellence in the rural and urban settings.
  • Scientists working in non-governmental organisations, and private institutions have also made it to the list consisting of science, technology and medicine.
  • There is need for reorienting and taking a relook at the investment in research and development by government medical institutions.
  • The Medical Council of India, the Pharmacy Council of India and other regulatory institutions would need to review their guidance and support mechanisms for enhanced research and development.
  • It is a matter of great pride that so many Indian scientists from these disciplines have received international acclaim and recognition which is a motivating factor for a number of young scientists.
  • At the same time, it is disappointing to note that only a few scientists in disciplines such as anaesthesiology, applied mathematics, emergency and critical care, genetics and heredity and geology have made the grade.
  • It is a signal to these scientists to work harder, with purpose, and to demonstrate professional excellence.
  • Drawing inputs from the National Education Policy, the Government of India has proposed the setting up of a National Research Foundation, or NRF.
  • India invests less than 1% of its GDP in research and innovation.

Relevance of the NRF

  • The proposal to set up an NRF is aimed at boosting research and innovation in all higher education institutions in the country.
  • If it sees the light of day, it would boost the overall research ecosystem in the country by focusing and extending support to take up research and development in thrust areas relevant to India’s national priorities.
  • As in the proposal, the NRF will have four major divisions such as sciences, technology, social sciences, and arts and humanities.
  • Additional divisions such as agriculture, environment, etc. could be added by the governing board of the NRF.
  • The NRF paves the way for a self-reliant India while advocating merit-based but equitable peer-reviewed research funding, an incentivisation of research, and to usher in a new culture of research and development in the country.
  • Despite certain limitations, the announcement of the NEP and the Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan may enable the country to redraw the contours of research beyond the conventional disciplines.
  • The report by Stanford University provides the impetus to Indian scientists to reach international standards.