The June 1987 issue of the PPST Bulletin carried an article on 'The Performance of Modem Science and Technology in India: The Case of our Scientific and Technological journals" by (Dr. C.N. Krishnan and Dr. B. Viswanathan (PPST Bulletin No!li; 1987, pp.1-19). This article drew serious response from several wellknown scientists and technologists,1 some of which were extracted In the previous issues of the Bulletin (PPST Bulletin No.12, Sept. 87, pp.75-79). The article was also reproduced In an abridged form by The Hindu; Science Age and Science Today.
Krishnan and yiswanathan argued that the standing of Indian scientific periodicals is much poorer In comparison to that of Indian science, at least in so far as our leading scientists (such as the Fellows of our Academies, members of the editorial boards of our scientific journals, etc.) do not send their better publications to the Indian journals. We are happy to note that W Indian Academy of Sciences, and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, the' two ma or publishers of leading scientific periodicals In India, have taken up this issue seriously. In early December 1987, Professor CNR Rao, the Editor of Publications of the Indian Academy of Sciences, sent an appeal to all the Fellows of the Acdemy, that they should 'send at least one or two... good papers every year to the Academy journals'. In january 1988, DrAP. Mitra. the Director General of CSIR, sent a circular to the Directors of all the CSIR laboratories, asking them to 'encourage and motivate our (CSIR) scientists to contribute their best papers too in PID (Publication and Information Directorate of CSIR) journals'. These are Indeed highly welcome developments especially because, as the article by Subbiah Arunachalam and tCManorama In this issue of the Bulletin shows, even the leading scientific periodicals of India have a "very poor Impact. We fervently hope that appeals by our leading scientists such as Prof CNR Rao and Dr A P Mitra would induce many of the Fellows of our Academies and the Scientists in CSIR laboratories to publish their quality work In these journals.
The problem however is perhaps much larger, as indicated by Prof. Rao himself In his circular letter and as highlighted by Prof B M Udgaonkar in a recent editorial in Physics News (Sep 1987). Referring to Prof. Rao's remark that "Nothing short of a social revolution amongst all of us can solve the problem". Prof. Udgaonkar asks : "Are we ready for it? If not, we should be honest to ourselves and decide to close down our research journals. That would be a sad thing to happen".
We feel that there Is no reason for despair. The problem Is one of understanding why Indian scientists have so far preferred not to publish In Indian journals and see what can be done about ft. May be It needs much more serious and concerted investigation, debate, planning, and action than merely appealing to our scientists, or Informally persuading them, or even pressurizing some of them. But, with leaders of our scientific community such as Prof Rao. Dr Mitra and Prof Udgaonkar committed to Improving the status of our journals, ft should not be difficult to initiate such an effort. We would like to take this opportunity to spell out what needs to be done to redeem the state of our scientific journals.
Firstly there should be a detailed examination of the nature and quality of the output of Indian science, as also of the scientific periodicals of India. At present there seem to be no comprehensive data-bases and studies on the output of Indian science, where our papers are getting published, and what Is their overall Impact on scientific development In India and the world. Like many countries of the world we will have to develop our own data-bases and make our own studies and assessments of our scientific output. Also there do not appear to be any studies on the kind of journals we need to publish In order to carry a ma or fraction of our scientific output, especially work of higher quality. The article by Dr B Viswanathan and Dr C N Krishnan in this issue of the Bulletin presents an outline of such a study.
Once we have detailed Information on all aspects of our scientific output, as also of the state of our scientific journals, then a plan may be made for improving the quality and circulation of those journals which seem to have potential. Younger and active scientists may be Inducted to editorial boards, editorial procedures streamlined, and better financial support ensured so that proper periodicity and quality of production are maintained. There will have to be various programmes conducted all over the country, imparting training on preparation of research papers, reviewing them critically and on editing journals. Steps will have to be taken to ensure better circulation of our journals both in India and abroad. One suggestion which has been made is that the Department of Science and Technology or any other agency (or body of scientists) could be asked to ensure the circulation of selected (say 50) leading journals of India to about 200 chosen centres in the world, even free of cost, say for a period of 5 years. New journals may be started in areas or institutions where there is a proven need and ability. At the same time, no harm will be done In closing down those journals currently being published, which are of very poor quality and cannot be redeemed.
In short, there should be a comprehensive review of the present state of our journals and a ma or plan to improve their quality and circulation. With serious efforts, ft should be possible to make such a ptan and perhaps even begin implementing it from say the beginning of '1990.
While efforts [have to go on to improve the quality of our journals, there should be at the same time an all-out effort to get our scientists to publish in them. This means perhaps, to start with, art exercise of serf-discipline by all our scientists, though the leaders who have to give the call and set the example. Many of our outdated policies will have to change. The existing value system where appointments, research grants, peer recognition, awards etc., are all based on the quantum of publications abroad, will have to be publicly exorcised.
But all this may not suffice. Perhaps for a decade or two (till our journals really become prestigious), we may have to consider even enforcing this discipline of publishing In our own journals on all our scientists. After all, the money for scientific research In India comes almost entirety from the public exchequer and so even a legislation to enforce such publication would be in some sense justified. Whether It be enforced or voluntary, what seems to us to be necessary is that our scientific community adopts the principle that:
Starting from 19ff0, any paper with the first author associated with an Indian Institution may be sent to a foreign journal only if it Is not accepted for publication say by two Indian journals.
In other words our scientific community should grant the privilege of first refusal to our own scientific journals. If it is felt that this Is too drastric a measure, let ft also be understood that the malady of Indian Science is rather special. There is perhaps no other nation In the world with such a large task-force of scientists and technologists which, however, has no clear national identify whatsoever. Many a drastic measure needs to be taken if we are serious that Indian Scientists acquire an Indian Identity.
* Extracts from the letters of Prof Rao and Dr Mltra and the editorial of Prof Udgaonkar are printed in the Annexure to this note.
1. Extract from the letter of Professor CNR Rao. Editor of Publications, Indian
Academy of Sciences, dated 2nd December 1987, addressed to the Fellows of the Academy:
“i am writing to seek your cooperation on an important matter connected with the journals of our Academy. The publication record of our Fellows in our own Academy journals Is miserably poor. A sample survey shows only about 50 papers (which is a little less than 10% of the total publications) are published by Fellows In our journals. Furthermore, only a few Fellows publish these papers. This state of affairs raises many questions. If our journals are not raising in stature as good journals, the main responsibility certainty falls on the Fellows,
who after attaining various levels of eminence still prefer to publish everything abroad. It the leading scientists and engineers are having such feelings, how will our younger colleagues be enthused about our journals and our academies? The outside community may one day ask why the journals and the academies should be supported at this level if they do not aim at excellence. Nothing short of a social revolution amongst all of us can solve the probelm. t appeal to you to send at least one or two of your good research papers every year, to the Academy journals. As you know Rapid Communications, and occasional review articles are also published in many of our journals. On my side I shall endeavour to arrange fora speedy processing of the material and an efficient publication to the best extent possible".
2. Extract from the letter of Dr A P Mitra, Director General, CSIR. dated 29th anuary 1988, addressed to the Directors of CSIR Laboratories:
"it has been estimated that the contribution of papers articles by CSIR laboratory scientists in journals published by PID is about 10% at present. Often, the best papers are not sent for publication in CSIRflndlan journals. This trend, In my opinion, entails a critical look.
I am conscious of the need to further improve the quality and circulation of PID journals. Same steps towards meeting this objective are being implemented. However, It would not be possible to achieve these objectives without the participation and support of our laboratories. With this in view I feel that we have to encourage and motivate our scientists to contribute their best papers too in PID journals.
I seek your cooperation in this endeavour and would welcome suggestions that you may have to offer.
3. Extract from the Editorial of Professor B M Udgaonkar in Physics News, September 1987. entitled "Should we close down our research journals?".
"The Indian Academy of Sciences has, over the years devoted considerable effort to promote the emergence and growth of high quality research journals in various fields. How successful has been this effort, as perceived by our scientists, for whom after all it is meant? Or does it at all cater to a need felt by Indian Scientists - we are advisedly avoiding the expression Indian Scientific Community, because we are not sure that such a community exists.
We are prompted to raise this question by a recent circular from Prof CNR Rao, Editor of Publications of the Indian Academy of Sciences, addressed to all the Fellows of the Academy, In which he appeals to the Fellows for their help In raising the standards of the Academy journals by sending at least one or two of their good research papers every year to the Academy journals...
Over 50 years ago, Prof C V Raman, whose birth centenary Is being celebrated this year, while founding the Indian Academy of Sciences strongly deplored the practice of exporting the more Important scientific contributions for publication
in foreign journals and observed: "Continuance of this practice will retard the process of building up a scientific tradition for India and keep her In e position of semi-dependence in the world of science,", and added "India will have to organize and develop her National Scientific Institutions before she can enter Into the committee of international scientists".
As C N Krlshnan and B Viswanathan (PPST Bulletin No.11, une 1987) have remarked, that our S and T journals are in poor shape is not merely a matter of National Prestige; it has serious repercussions on the functioning of our entire scientific community. In a sense it merely reflects the state of affairs in the S and T front. If our journals do not serve as an effective medium among our S and T workers, it will be difficult for the S and T effort in the country to acquire not only an Indian identity. but correspondingly a consciousness" of its increasing strength and self esteem which will enable achieve higher levels.
If our scientific community does not take the journals created by itself seriously, if it treats them as peripherals not only to the world scientific effort, but to its own scientific effort, why should It feel offended if indigenous S and T effort is considered peripheral and irrelevant by our decision making elites who rush Into foreign collaborations even in areas where Indian expertise is available?
As Prof CNR Rao has remarked, "Nothing short of a social revolution amongst all of us can solve the problem". Are we ready for it? If not, we should be honest to ourselves and decide to close down our research journals.
That would be a sad thing to happen".