India ranks 8th in the quality of private and public research institutions across 112 countries, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitive Index 2018.
While India ranks among the top 10 countries with high quality of research institutes, there is a catch. It scores just 0.42 out of 5 in the quality of research institutions index. USA tops the list with a score of 3.88.
One of the reasons why India makes it to the top 10 is because the quality of research across the globe remains poor. The top spots are occupied by developed economies such as the US, China, France, Germany and others, who are in a position to fund research institutes.
The quality of India’s research institutes is largely considered below-par, with the country contributing the highest number of low-quality research and bogus journals.
Nearly 88 percent of the University Grants Commission (UGC) approved list of journals have been found to be of ‘low quality’, according to study on Critical Analysis of the UGC- approved list of journals published in Current Science.
The primary reason for low-quality researches is the low spending on research and development (R&D). India spends just 0.62 percent of GDP on research, according to R&D Data Release 2018 by UNESCO Institute for Statistics.
In contrast, France spends 2.25 percent of its GDP on research, and the United States, 2.74 percent.
Interestingly, India’s spend on R&D has been rising but the percentage of GDP devoted towards it has been declining. The low spends answer why India lacks the resources required for conducting high-quality researches.
Time and again, questions have been raised on the quality and authenticity of the research output in India and policymakers have long been aware of the dismal state of research.
In 2013, the government launched a string of initiatives such as Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan or the National Higher Education Mission to boost the number of researchers in higher education. Two years later, the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) was launched to rank universities and institutes in various parameters, including research.
Subsequently, the government also announced the ‘Institutes of Eminence (IoE)’ scheme, where it initially pledged to support 20 institutes to become world-class universities – of which six have already been announced and more than a dozen are awaiting the status upgrade. While it may be too early to judge whether these measures will bear fruits in the future, the government may have to continue working in this direction.
The scarcity of compensation or funds for scholars, however, is not the only reason behind the research crisis in the country. The woes of India’s education system are rooted in early schooling.
The quality of education imparted to students in government, as well as private schools, has come under the scanner after the Annual Status of Education Report, 2017 stated that about 57 percent of the country’s youth aged 14-18 years were unable to solve a basic division problem.
The survey, which focused on the quality of education at various institutes, said that teens couldn’t successfully perform simple activities like counting money, adding weights and telling time.
Analysts have long pointed to the problem of students “reproducing” textbooks in examinations without applying critical thinking — and such culture is carried all the way to higher education, as per a recent study by Observer Research Foundation (ORF).
The government policies too play a major role in the publication of a large number of bogus journals and researches. In 2010, the University Grants Commission (UGC) introduced the academic performance indicator (API) for evaluation of teachers, which laid considerable emphasis on the number of research publications (‘publish or perish’). It further mandated publication of at least two papers prior to the submission of a doctoral thesis in 2013.
As a result of these guidelines, publication in journals spurt due to the required ‘compliance’ criterion in the university system. This also triggered the publication of predatory/dubious journals offering ‘pay and publish’ services for gullible authors in the country.
India needs to support researches and development within the country, bring in laws to check the loopholes that exist in the laws and set up a strict monitoring body to check the research quality.
Thus, ranking among the top 10 countries with high-quality research institutes means nothing until India improves in its quality of researches at the ground-level.