SWOT analysis on Indian scientific research
Manmohan Singh, the honourable Prime Minister of our country, while inaugurating the 95th Indian Science
Congress on 3 January 2008 at Andhra University, Visakhapatnam, announced that the Government pro-
posed in the 11th Plan to establish 30 new Central Universities, 5 Indian Institutes of Science Education and
Research, and 8 new Indian Institutes of Technology. With an aim to promote scientific spirit, he also pro-
posed science innovation scholarships to 10,000 students, as an incentive for those entering the science
degree courses. This is a welcome change towards promotion of quality in scientific research in the country.
India has emerged as one of the leading Growth renowned science academies like the In-
nations in scientific research during the dian National Science Academy, Indian
last six decades. Among the developing Let us have a cursory glance at the growth Academy of Sciences, National Academy
nations, India ranks first in terms of not of science in India from pre-independence of Sciences, National Academy of Agri-
only the number of scientific organiza- period to the present (six decades). For culture Sciences (NAAS), Indian Medical
tions, both universities and institutes, but this, the number of universities and re- Association and Indian Medical Council.
also in the number of science graduates. search institutes are taken into considera- Almost all disciplines of science have
The most remarkable achievements are tion. From a modest about ten traditional their own societies to promote exchange
in the fields of space science, nuclear universities in the 1950s, the number has of research findings through conferences
science, communication, medical and now reached over 240, which includes and seminars and publications in their
agricultural sciences. For the sake of about eight Central Universities. Some of journals. Thus, the country is endowed
convenience and also because of their in- the leading centres of excellence in sci- with vast scientific manpower, physical
separable nature, the ‘technologies’ are also entific research have also received the resources and financial investments.
included as ‘science and technology’. This status of deemed universities. To provide
implies that both the theoretical and ap- thrust to agricultural education, research SWOT analysis
plied aspects are relevant while discuss- and extension, the Government had started
ing the overall achievements in scientific State Agricultural Universities (SAUs) at The time is now ripe to make a critical
research in the country. In this context, Pantnagar in the mid-sixties and later at analysis of scientific research in the coun-
the fast developing fields are biotechno- Coimbatore, but now there are 39 SAUs try. The best way to do this is perhaps to
logy, computer and information technolo- in almost all states, with Maharashtra undertake SWOT analysis (Strengths,
gies, which have revolutionized the utility alone having five of them. Five Universi- Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) of
value of research in terms of knowledge ties for Animal Sciences and Fisheries Indian scientific research as a whole. Al-
explosion, more importantly in reaching have also been introduced to take care of though not a quantitative approach, SWOT
the common public. Establishment of ATMs the livestock and fisheries sectors. Re- definitely helps in assessing the real status
by several banks for easy and quick cently, exclusive Medical and Health of a given situation, as successfully em-
money accessibility, cell-phones for rapid Universities have also been established ployed in many international and na-
communication and on-line reservations to strengthen health research. tional projects. It must be admitted that
for various purposes have impacted the Besides, the Government established all the points listed under SWOT may
general public with tremendous success. different scientific councils and depart- not be complete, but the information pro-
ments as apex bodies to enhance research vides an opportunity for in-depth study.
Emerging sciences potential, like the Council of Scientific
and Industrial Research, Indian Council Strengths
India is surging ahead in biotechnology/ of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Indian
bioinformatics research, be it in plant or Council of Medical Research, Depart- • Largest number of qualified scientific
agriculture (transgenics, resistance to ment of Atomic Energy, Department of manpower.
diseases and pests) or in medical res- Biotechnology, Indian Space Research • Availability of topmost expertise in
earch (stem cells, cancer, diabetes, etc.). Organization, etc. Under each council/ many research areas.
Nano-technology is the most recent department there are a large number of • Infrastructure facilities built to desired
emerging field which in the next five institutes. For instance, the ICAR has 93 levels.
years is expected to facilitate the society institutes, National Research Centres, Di- • Vast scope for encouraging young scien-
in a big way. All the above are possible rectorates and 74 All-India Coordinated tists to pursue research in advanced fields.
because of modern infrastructure facili- Centres. In addition, there are world- • Funds fairly adequate both from Gov-
ties and the advanced training imparted recognized organizations like the Bhabha ernment and private sectors.
to scientists in India or because they are Atomic Research Centre, Indian Institute • Large number of scientific academies,
deputed to reputed foreign laboratories to of Science, Tata Institute of Fundamental councils, societies, etc.
acquire latest knowledge. The Govern- Research and seven Indian Institutes of • High-quality library facilities with
ment provided substantial funds in the Technology. The State Governments modern communication technologies.
Five-Year Plans to different ministries have established research institutes to • Publication of a large number of scien-
associated with scientific research. address local problems. India has also tific journals.
846 CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 94, NO. 7, 10 APRIL 2008
• Commendable achievements, laurels, lence, as exemplified in space research score of 3.5–3.0; as much as 48% of the
recognition. and information technologies. It was an journals had the lowest score of 0.5. Al-
exemplary team spirit among scientists, most all the SAU journals had a score of
Weaknesses engineers and technicians that brought 0.5. This analysis was based on the score
glory to space research and it has served allotted to 1460 journals, both national
• Under-utilized scientific manpower. as a role model for other institutes. In and international, by NAAS. Analysis of
• Imbalance in research priorities. spite of good work and generation of research publications in agriculture is
• Inadequate facilities in some institutes valuable data, the quality of publication difficult, since the coverage in Science
and poor linkages. in reputed journals needs to be strength- Citation Index (SCI) is rather poor2. It is
• Lack of incentives and rewards to ened. Awareness among scientists on the not uncommon to sometimes find low
back-up excellence. scoring of journals, citation index and impact publications being cited more than
• Low priority for standard of research impact factor seems to be lacking, which publications made in high impact jour-
output. requires immediate attention. If appro- nals3, reflecting on the complexity of the
• Scientific journals of poor quality. priate actions are not taken to revitalize situation. What would be the trend in
• Lack of awareness on quality research scientific research, then the ‘threats’ are other disciplines of science is anybody’s
journals and impact factor analysis, ci- bound to lower the image, which the guess. It was also found that few eminent
tation index/frequency, etc. country can hardly afford, especially scientists from India serve on the edito-
when the ‘strengths’ and ‘opportunities’ rial boards of reputed international jour-
Opportunities are positive indicators for further en- nals. Many Indian science journals do not
• Scope for reorganizing scientific man- hancement of scientific efficiencies. find a place in the SCI. The national acad-
power vis-à-vis organizations. Thus, SWOT reveals that the enormous emies, councils and societies in India
• Reorientation of research priorities on potential available in the country should should debate on this rather poor show of
a national basis. be geared up to achieve excellence. scientific research, objectively and dis-
• Providing opportunities for achieving passionately.
excellence. Quality of research
• Promotion of team spirit with scientific Conclusion
temper. Although we may pat ourselves over the
• Accelerating inter- or multidisciplinary accomplishments in the last six decades, The SWOT analysis has brought out
research. there are some areas which require seri- some salient points on the Indian scien-
• According incentives/rewards for quality ous attention. The first and foremost is the tific research scenario. It is flexible in-
work. quality of research in comparison with asmuch as some points may not apply or
• Counselling on quality of publications. international standards. We cannot be some need to be added to make it more
• Deputation to advanced centres for ac- satisfied by simply counting the thou- realistic for a given institute/organization.
quiring latest knowledge and encourag- sands of science graduates rolled out by The author does not claim that the analy-
ing exchange with other centres. the universities year after year. Even after sis is foolproof. There is no second opin-
postgraduation in science, many do not ion that Indian scientists are shining both
Threats pursue a research career, which means in India and abroad, but their number is
that the percentage of scientific man- in a microscopic minority. It may be pos-
• Exodus of brilliant brains to other coun- power is less compared to the total num- sible to produce high-quality scientific
tries. ber of graduates. Even those science brains if the analysis is considered for
• Personality clashes affecting progress postgraduates who opt for the teaching further improvement to make India the
of research. profession do not undertake research, ei- most scientifically advanced nation. Lastly,
• Enhanced level of mediocrity. ther due to lack of facilities in their col- the Prime Minister’s dream to provide
• Improper utilization of enormous funds. leges or due to lack of interest or both. more opportunities for scientific research
• Lack of scientific auditing – accounta- Among the ‘professional’ scientists also, must become a reality. Also, the passion-
bility/responsibility. the quality of output is rather poor and is ate appeal by A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, the
not commensurate with the huge invest- former President of India, to make India
From the forgoing one may feel proud of ments made for scientific research. Vari- the most developed nation by 2020, im-
the ‘strengths’, especially in scientific ous reasons are attributed for poor- plies that scientific research is the back-
manpower, facilities and achievements in quality work. One of the yardsticks to as- bone for societal growth and prosperity.
space, information and biotechnology re- sess the standard of a scientist and his
search. However, there are glaring ‘weak- analytical brain is the publication of res- 1. Rajagopal, V. and Rameshkumar, M. P.,
nesses’ that cause great concern to policy earch findings in specialist journals. De- Curr. Sci., 2005, 88, 207–208.
planners and managers of research. In- spite the large number of scientific 2. Arunachlam, S., Srinivasan, R. and Raman,
adequacy of scientific posts in some or- journals published by various Indian sci- V., Curr. Sci., 1998, 74, 433–441.
ganizations, lack of direction on focused entific societies, more than 70% is found 3. Balaram, P., Curr. Sci., 1999, 76, 1519.
research priorities and overall medioc- to be medium to low standard on the in-
rity, barring a few institutes and universi- ternational scale of score/impact factor. V. Rajagopal lives at Flat No. 102, Sri
ties and duplication of research activities In an earlier publication1 it was revealed Kataksham, 18-4-60, Railway Colony,
are all areas which ultimately affect the that none of the Indian journals in the ag- Sri Paada Eureka Residency, Tirupati
growth of science. Nevertheless, there riculture field achieved the highest score 517 501, India.
are ample ‘opportunities’ to achieve excel- of 4.0, while only less than 15% had a e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 94, NO. 7, 10 APRIL 2008 847