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Indian Science Journals

Why are science journals published from India so bad? Here is a list of impact factors of Indian science journals. That list is from the year 2000, but the situation has improved only marginally, as this report about 2008 shows. Of course, impact factor may not be a very good measure of the importance of a journal, since it has more to do with immediacy than lasting impact, among other things. But even by other measures, Indian journals are ranked very low.

One could of course say `Who cares?’ So what if Indian journals are not very good, as long as the work produced by Indian scientists, published in foreign journals, are rated highly? Is the place of publication of journals relevant if the contributions are good? I do not have a good answer to that, although I would like to put the counter-question that since science progresses through good research, why do we care about who did that research? In other words, why do we care if Indian science languishes, if good science is being done somewhere in the world?

In any case, the quality and importance of research done in a country seems to have some sort of positive correlation with the quality of journals published from there — we should count Western Europe (minus the UK) as one country for this purpose. The evolution of such quality with time also seems to be correlated with the publication of better journals, as in the case of Singapore or China in recent times.

So if we agree (as many do, including myself) that India needs to publish better quality research journals, we should find some way of getting better quality research into the journals published from India. Our famous scientists, many of whom often shed crocodile tears for Indian science, refuse to publish any of their good quality work (in many cases, any work) in Indian journals. It is not clear to me why, since electronic archives such as this ensure that any paper (in almost all fields of science except medicine)  is seen all over the world even before publication. Research papers would be read from the archives and cited, regardless of where they are subsequently published.

But these scientists cannot be coaxed into publishing in Indian journals that easily. And if they do not publish there, these journals are not going to grow in stature. So I have a suggestion, one similar to what used to be the rule in post-WW2 Europe:

Any paper written using a grant from an Agency of the Indian Government must be published in a journal published in India. If a research grant is given jointly by an Indian and a foreign agency, a predetermined fraction of the papers written using it should be published in Indian journals.

If the Indian funding agencies follow this rule, Indian journals will start looking up again in a few years, be competitive in the world, and attract good research from abroad.

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  1. November 24, 2009 at 2:35 pm
  2. August 13, 2010 at 1:49 am

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