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Publish or Perish: How the Numbers Game is Choking Indian Academia

Publish or Perish: How the Numbers Game is Choking Indian Academia

Most Indian Universities expect multiple publications in SCOPUS or SCI indexed journals for any form of academic advancement. Shifting the focus from quantity to quality is the need of the hour.

recent study revealed that 88% of the journals approved by the University Grants Commission are of low quality. After the results were published last month, the UGC updated its list and removed several predatory journals which require academics to pay to get their work published.

Rules of recruitment and promotion have become extremely stringent in Indian Academia. Most Indian Universities expect multiple publications in SCOPUS or SCI indexed journals for any form of academic advancement. As a result, Indian academics are under constant pressure to publish.

With this sort of a strict norm in Indian Universities, one would expect exemplary research to be churned out on a regular basis. However, this is not the case. India continues to lag behind considerably regarding its publications and citations. This makes one question as to what is wrong with Indian Academia.

The Number Game


The numbers game is making Indian academia lose out on quality. Photo


Most of the Indian Universities and Institutes have made it mandatory to have a certain number of publications in SCOPUS/SCI indexed journals to be considered for promotions or any form of recruitment.

Due to the immense pressure in publishing in SCOPUS/SCI indexed journals, most academics add their names as co-authors in most of their student’s publications.

Some private and public Universities also give financial appraisals for every SCOPUS/SCI indexed publication. Additionally, the list of journals which are featured in SCOPUS is also not sacrosanct. A lot of relevant journals are not included in SCOPUS.

Still, SCOPUS continues to be the reference point for a majority of the Indian Universities and institutes.

All these factors have contributed in creating the publication process as a numbers game. The focus is more on quantity as opposed to the quality of journals. Hence, India continues to struggle with producing high-quality research.

Academics in Humanities lose out

Concerning Humanities and Social Sciences, very few journals are included in SCOPUS. Additionally, these journals also take a considerable amount of time to publish. In some cases, these journals take a year to publish. Hence, most of the academics in these streams never meet the expected number of publications prescribed by the institution. In fact, most of these academics have much lesser research papers as opposed to their engineering and science counterparts.

Lessons from China and Singapore


A focus on quality instead of quantity is the need of the hour. Photo


To improve the sad state of research in India, Indian Academia should take a leaf out of China’s research strategy. China has excelled in research in all its disciplines and has made a significant contribution in all the fields.

Similarly, the National University of Singapore has also emerged as a huge research hub. Both these countries stressed the quality of research and gained tremendously in the long run.

India needs to urgently shape a collective culture of research which will motivate academics to publish for the sheer joy of doing research.

By providing monetary incentives or promotions, publishing will become quantity-driven. The Government and the Heads of different Universities and Institutes in India should come together to develop this research ethos.

Also Read: This Harvard Student’s Letter to PM Modi on How to Treat Academia Is Making News

In particular, the Universities could appoint a committee which will evaluate the quality of the publication and also the targeted journal. This will motivate academics to publish in relevant journals. Additionally, the Universities also need to go beyond SCOPUS/SCI indexing and assess the journal independently.

Finally, publications with students should be strongly discouraged. This will induce faculty to do independent research and engage in quality publications.

(Written by Dr Jagriti Gangopadhyay and Edited by Shruti Singhal)

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