‘Publish or Perish’ i.e., Either publish or bid goodbye to your dreams of becoming a researcher. Globally, this tremendous pressure to publish a preset number of scientific articles, especially in India, has given rise to predatory journals and papers of marginal quality, which has diluted the spirit of science and scientific temperament. The mandatory requirement for Ph.D. in most countries – A gateway to the world of research – is to write a few academic papers as a part of the prerequisite criteria for being awarded the degree. Data says that India is the third-largest producer of research papers despite the low numbers of doctoral graduates passing each year compared to other countries.
In 2014, 67,449 people in the United States received a Ph.D., compared to 28,147 in Germany. With 25,020 Ph.D. graduates, the United Kingdom was at third position, barely ahead of India with 24,300 doctoral students (OECD Science, Technology and Innovation Outlook ). In 2019, according to the All India Survey of Higher Education, 2881 students enrolled in Integrated Ph.D. in addition to 2.02 lakh students enrolled for Ph.D. students, and a total of 38,986 Indian students were awarded a Ph.D. degree. But the number of Ph.D. degree holders getting into the research field every year does not correlate with the quality and impact these research publications can create and should be able to make. Science is burgeoning under the false expectations under the tsunami of scientific publications that have little or no real influence, along with a black hole of XYZ Journals.
According to National Science Foundation, 2.6 million scientific papers (Science and Engineering S&E) were published worldwide in 2018, which is a 4% annual increase over the last ten years. High-income economies (the United States, Germany, Japan, and other similar countries) produced 56% of S&E articles, followed by upper-middle-income economies (China, Russia, Brazil, and other similar countries) with 34% and lower-middle-income economies (India, Indonesia, Pakistan, and other similar countries) with 9%. China and the United States produced 21% and 17% of total publications in 2018, followed by India (5%), Germany (4%), Japan (4%), and the U.K (4%). However, as a group, on Impact Factor (measure the importance of journal by the number of times a typical article in a journal has been cited in a given year), considering S&E publication output in top 1% of cited publications as a criterion, USA scored 1.88%, EU 1.30% and China 1.12% which is more than world average of 1% whereas Japan and India scored 0.88% and 0.70% which is below the world average. It should be noted that both the countries, Japan and India, appeared in the top 10 countries in terms of volume of publications.
On the quality of researchers, according to Clarivate Plc’s list of Highly Cited Researchers in 2021, the United States is home to a total of 2,622 out of 6,600 recognized researchers who demonstrated significant influence in their chosen field through the publication of highly cited articles over the last decade. The U.S is followed by China (935), the United Kingdom (492), Australia (332), Germany, and The Netherlands. However, Indian researchers do not appear on the list. In 2019, only 10 Indian scientists were among the top 4000 highly cited researchers.
These numbers tell a story of a dire situation of dying science. We need to rethink the national R&D eco-system, the quality of research institutions, the number of Ph.D. students graduating from universities, research and development funding priorities, and overall attitude towards science. India spends 0.7% of GDP on R&D and has 156 researchers per million inhabitants, whereas 2.7% of GDP is spent in the USA with 4,205 researches per million inhabitants. To address the case of ‘Missing Science’ in our country requires concrete efforts from government and academia. Also, we must not compromise the quality of scientific knowledge in the quest to make science accessible to all. Of course, there are other issues that need to be addressed, such as paywall removal, funding, and how science is conveyed to the general public.
Dr. Manpreet Kaur is a doctor by training, a researcher, an activist, and public health enthusiast. She also works in the area of innovation, societal impact, and transformation. She is Chief of Staff at the Public Policy think tank- World Intellectual Foundation.