India’s chemistry research growth slow

K. S. Jayaraman

doi:10.1038/nindia.2017.51 Published online 25 April 2017

Academic departments have failed to take advantage of India's traditional strengths such as natural products chemistry and inorganic chemistry, the authors say.

© S. Priyadarshini

Chemistry research in India, often cited as the country’s strong point in most bibliometric analyses, may not be growing at a good pace despite an increase in output and a spurt in international collaborations, according to a new analysis1.

India’s chemistry output is way behind her competitive neighbour China, according to the analysis whose results are in stark contrast with most recent scientometric analyses (by Elsevier, Thomson Reuters and Nature Index).

The study led by Subbiah Arunachalam at the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, analysed papers from India in leading multidisciplinary chemistry journals using a large aggregator (Scopus) over a 25-year period (1991–2015). It found that India’s percentage of highly cited papers in chemistry was way below the world average between 2005 and 2014, and even below that of some emerging economies.

"There was not a single Indian chemist in the list of the world’s top 100 chemists prepared by Thomson Reuters based on impact of their research published over the 11 years (2000–2010), whereas there were three from South Korea and one each from Brazil and South Africa,” it says.

According to the authors, one reason why Indians are not publishing many papers in top chemistry journals is that most academic departments have failed to take advantage of India's traditional strengths such as natural products chemistry and inorganic chemistry.

Comparing India with China, the researchers found that "India accounts for only a small number of papers in the top one percentile of the most highly cited chemistry papers. For instance, India's share of papers in the Journal of the American Chemical Society is 0.7% compared to 58.4% for USA, 7.6% for Germany and 5.1% for China.”

"China is in the top four countries with the largest number of most-cited publications in 11 out of 27 fields. India figures in only one field — chemical engineering,” the report says.

Talking to Nature India, Mamannamana Vijayan, former president of Indian National Science Academy (INSA), cautioned against comparing the performance of India and China in chemistry research. “One should not forget that China spends 6 to 12 times more money on research and development than India."

Director of the CSIR-Central Electrochemical Research Institute, Vijayamohanan K Pillai also questioned the study saying some of its conclusions based on statistical analysis may not hold ground due to the very small sample size. “Although its general conclusions on quality of our science are very true, this study is also not immune to the normal limitations of scientometric analysis as illustrated by conclusions based on India-China comparison,” he points out. “What we see in chemistry is only a reflection of what happens in science or sports or economic policies, and China is a wrong comparison.”

Gangan Prathap, till recently director of the National Institute of Science Communication and Information Resources in New Delhi said many scientometric reports have given a ‘sanitised view’ of chemistry research in India. "India is making progress, but very slowly. Its so-called strength in chemistry is just another way of saying that it is weak in many areas such as life sciences, clinical medicine and Earth and environment sciences,” he told Nature India.

Subhash Lakhotia, chief editor of the Proceedings of Indian National Science Academy endorses the observation that like any other branch of science, chemistry research is also making slow progress in India.


1. Arunachalam, S. et al. Chemistry research in India: Making progress, but not rapidly. Curr. Sci. Article (2017)