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Research papers are now child’s play

Getting a research paper published is now as easy as sending one email. When it comes to research, this is the state of affairs across academia in India and the University of Mumbai is no different.

mumbai Updated: May 16, 2013 01:17 IST
Bhavya Dore

Some time ago, a bunch of students doing their masters in economics sent a research paper to a Delhi-based journal, as an experiment. Without being informed of any referee comments which is the standard process, they were told their paper had been accepted. They were, however, asked to pay a ‘publication cost’ of Rs 7,000.


Getting a research paper published is now as easy as sending one email. When it comes to research, this is the state of affairs across academia in India and the University of Mumbai is no different.

“Since getting papers published is linked to promotions and increments, teachers have started their own journals,” said Neeraj Hatekar, an economics professor at Mumbai university, whose students had sent the ‘paper’. “Anyone can publish anything now.”

At conferences across city colleges, everything from the banal to the absurd is presented, in the interest of earning points, and adding to one’s resume. This is largely driven by the UCG’s Academic Performance Indicator (API) system, which grants teachers points for presenting papers, which in turn determines career progress.

“This is a big racket,” said one postgraduate professor. “There are random publications and people pay to get their papers published.”

Even as the new ‘racket’ grips Indian higher education, the problem of producing a large number of high-quality papers continues to plague Mumbai university.

In a 2010 study of 50 Indian universities, Mumbai university ranked eighth in terms of output in international peer-reviewed journals. However, in terms of average citations per paper the university fared poorly, with 1.6 citations a paper compared to 4.6 for the top performer, the University of Hyderabad.

In the share of international collaborative papers, Mumbai fell to 41 on the list of 50. In the study’s method of ranking, combining quality and quantity parameters along a ‘p-index’, Mumbai fell to 25th spot (see graphic).

“It is true, research has not been a strong feature of Mumbai university,” said an academic council member.

Funds are not a problem: in 2011, the university launched the scheme of minor research grants now worth Rs1.5 crores for teachers to produce research. Even the NAAC re-accreditation report praised this, whilst simultaneously observing that “a large number of permanent faculty [are] not actively involved in research”.

However, teachers are already overworked. “With the heavy work load, requirements for doing refresher courses and poor research facilities, it is difficult to do research,” said CR Sadasivan, president of the teachers’ union.