India’s science research activity has slipped to a fourth of China’s over just the past decade in a dramatic decline that suggests that repeated government promises to focus on research are yet to shows results.
New analysis of comparative science research, that takes into account both quality and quantity, shows that India led China till as recently as 2002. But while Delhi has almost stagnated since then, Beijing has leapfrogged ahead, its research activity four times that of India.
The analysis by Dr Gangan Prathap, director of the National Institute for Science Communication and Information Resources — India’s apex agency for science research evaluation — is published in the latest issue of Current Science, the country’s top science journal.
China started investing heavily in research only in 1978, after the end of the Cultural Revolution, unlike India, which had a robust science programme from the 1950s.
“The results are seen now,” Prathap told HT. “Whereas once India was ahead of China, it is now left far behind.”
Prathap’s analysis looked at both quality and quantity of the research, and also reaffirmed the West’s steady but continuous decline. He used the numbers of papers published in peer-reviewed journals as an indicator of quantity of research. Prathap then divided the number of papers published by scientists from each country by the GDP of that country to arrive at a parameter that indicates the quality of research produced – since wealthier nations are expected to produce greater research volume.
Finally, he multiplied the quality and quantity parameters to arrive at the composite measure of science research activity.
China, he found was producing research of about the same quality as India -- but four times as much in volume.
The decline over the past decade has ironically coincided with repeated warnings from PM Manmohan Singh over the past eight years that India risked losing out to China and East Asia in innovation.