We reproduce below extracts from some of the responses that we received on the article "The Performance of Modern Science and Technology in India: The Case of our Scientific and Technological Journals" by C.N.Krishnanand B.Viswanathan that appeared in the last issue of our Bulletin (No.11, June 1987, pp 1-19). This article was also reproduced in abridged form by The Hindu (Science Supplement, 23rd September 1987), Science Age (October 1987 issue) and Science Today (November 1987 issue). It is our hope that this-issue gets seriously debated by our science and technology community and major steps are initiated to improve the state of our scientific and technological journals.
1. A well known information scientist writes:
I read your article on Indian Scientific and Technological journals in the latest issue of PPST Bulletin. The point of view deserves wide exposure and a reasoned debate.
There are a few conceptual errors. You seem to have mistaken two different definitions of impact factor to be the same. The journal impact factor is calculated on the references in a whole year's journal literature (approx. 4000 journals) made to articles published in the two previous years; part of these published in the earlier of the two years would have had a better chance than the other part, published in the year immediately preceding. The individual impact you have quoted from Garfield's Third World study is for a five-year period: calculated by counting all citations to papers published in a given year in the same year as well as in the four years following. There are a few other points which could be contested. But on the whole it reads well; the flow is natural and IT WILL MAKE AN IMPACT.
2. The Director of a CSIR Laboratory writes:
Thank you for drawing my attention to the paper on 'Performance of Modern Science and Technology in India: The case of our Scientific and Technological Journals" published in the PPST Bulletin of June 1987. The science and technology journals in India deserve a very serious but sympathetic look particularly because the scientific community as a whole seems to be caught in the vortex of publication - recognition relationship. So long as the science policy makers and science administrators would not explicitly state that the merit of publishing in Indian journals '.is no less than that of publishing in the foreign journals, (no matter the equation is invalid to start with), the egg and chicken story would appear as the stumbling block. We cannot imagine strengthening Indian journals and rearing them up to the international standard, if best of our contributions do not get published in these. That would happen only when a deliberate attempt is made to ensure quality printing, perfect periodicity, much wider circulation and adequate recognition of such papers in recruitments, promotions, awards etc. No doubt there is a need for very high order of restraint and sacrifice on the part of research scientists and technologists in diverting the real stuff to the Indian journals and there is an equal need on the part of professional bodies and the Government to appreciate such initiatives by instituting appropriate awards and incentives. Other suggestions are:
- The editorial board of journals should not wait for researchers to contribute articles and papers on their own but rather take initiative in soliciting such contributions from important research groups within the country.
- It would be a good idea to classify journals by constituting expert bodies in different disciplines and assign ratings which should be reviewed periodically as the quality of this or that journal moves up and up on time scale.
- Proliferation of journals must be resisted not only by professionals bodies but also, as far as possible, by the Government.
- There is a growing tendency to contribute to conferences and symposia because they provide authors the opportunity to travel abroad. Authors of outstanding papers published in the Indian journals should have avenues of obtaining financial assistance from the Government or from other professional bodies for presentation of their contributions abroad, if and when such invitation is received by the authors.
- The University Grants Commission, Universities and the Institutes of Technology should encourage Ph.D scholars to publish their work in the Indian journals.
These are some of my stray thoughts which I have expressed in the hope that you would be able to compile similar responses from others to draw up a working paper which should be put to a round table discussion.
3. A renowned Medical Scientist writes:
Thank you for sending me a copy of the PPST Bulletin. Indian scientists, particularly Fellows of the Academies, must agree to publish at least seventy percent of their important papers in Indian journals such as those published by the Indian Academy. Until and unless such an agreement comes into operation, I fear that our journals will continue to languish as they do now…
4. A renowned Chemist writes:
I have received... the PPST Bulletin No. 11. I am delighted to go through an article which describes the painful situation with regard to the practice of science in general and practice of publication of results in particular...Your article provides me with more material to push forth a point of view I have on this subject.
Let me take the opportunity to congratulate you on the marvelous job you are doing in the interest of true science and scientific spirit relevant to our country.
5. A renowned Physicist writes:
I thank you very much for taking the trouble of sending me a copy of your Bulletin. I was very much interested to read its contents and I find myself in agreement with many of the views expressed….
Publication in Indian journals has been a favorite topic of mine for more than a decade.... Against much opposition, I also laid down for a period the stipulation that all papers coming from my laboratory be published in Indian journals...
I do not think one really needs citation index to find out whether a paper is good or not or for that matter whether a journal is good or not. People had a way of deciding these questions long before such parameters came into existence. I think there is a definite way in which this assessment can be made even as a referee assesses a paper. I am quite sure that most competent experts will come to the unbiased conclusion that most of our journals are better closed down. If that happens then we would not have many journals but just a few that are roughly on par with international journals of a similar nature, barring a few glamorous ones. However I do not think our society is mature enough to take such a bold decision. Just as we have institutionalized mediocrity elsewhere, we have allowed it to happen in the field of scientific publications also and are now complaining…..
It seems to me that one should really not worry too much about impact as measured by parameters designed by others for their own situations. Take the case of G.N. Ramachandran. What happened was that he did not get citations. However by putting him on those problems. Raman enabled Ramachandran to sharpen his analytical abilities, and the training definitely paid off in later years. One has merely to see not only Ramachandran's brilliant work on various subjects but also the many students he produced. Indeed for me this is a paradigm of impact relevant to our situation. We need not really worry about external impact; rather we should be concerned about the internal impact.
I think the argument I am making has relevance to other countries also. For example, when Nature produced a special issue on science in Japan, the editor noted that many Japanese scientists complained that few outside Japan refer to their work. So the citation index for many Japan papers is rather low and yet we know that this does not tell the whole story of the growth and the development of science and technology in Japan.
I now come to the sensitive topic of publishing in Indian journals. Here I am afraid that the guiltiest ones are the best of bur scientists. I do not expect them to send their papers to journals lacking in quality. However, I don't believe the Academy journals are sub-standard. In fact it is my experience that many referees of the Academy journals take their jobs a little too seriously! This is indeed quite strange. While they themselves would not care to publish in the journal, they become very concerned about standards when the journal sends them a paper for refereeing. So I am convinced that the standard of Pramana, for example, is not at all bad. However, most good physicists dodge sending their papers there. A few occasionally send some papers rather like paying tax. The only occasion when we are able to elicit without much coercion is when we publish a felicitation volume. On such occasions people write nice reviews and send it to the Academy journals.
What does one do with such a situation? Some years ago it was suggested that if money for research comes from India, then the product of the research must appear in an Indian journal. The argument was that research arid publications are two sides of the same coin and since both are supported by Government, scientist could not accept only one and ignore the other. When this suggestion "was made there was a big furor. Cries of dictatorship etc. were raised and the idea was promptly dropped. To be fair, one can see the point of the authors also a lack of visibility. This is a point which very much weighs in the minds of all active scientists and is also linked to the possibilities of finding openings in foreign laboratories. The compulsions of international peer recognition are not easily brushed aside. At the same time, I am deeply concerned that thanks to the rising cost of journals, our students and college lecturers have no access to foreign journals. If only we can trap what is going outside, then our journals would be substantially improved and our students would be benefited since Indian journals are nowhere near being as expensive as foreign journals. In a few years there should be a visible impact. I always find that when I publish in an Indian journal I get many requests from within India, especially from small places. It is clear to me that damming the outflow will make an internal impact even though we might lose out on the citation front. But how to bell the cat? No, amount of appeals to patriotism seems to have any effect. Nor also references to famous examples like that of Homi Bhabha. When he came back from England he published most of this papers in India, particularly in the Proceedings of the Indian Academy, Landau did a similar thing in USSR. But today nobody has the time to listen to such arguments'.
I am sorry this letter is rather long and inconclusive. My objective was not to specifically answer or raise points relating to the article published in your Bulletin but just to convey to you that I have been worrying about this problem for many years and that I have not seen the light yet!
6. Finally the following is the response from a reputed senior scientist:
The issues your raises have bothered me and have in fact been bothering me since 1970. I remember the comment C.V.Raman once made about journals in India, humorous at first sight but full of serious impact - "There are two types of people who want to have Indian journals - those who are working in the forefront of science and who are fighting for priority and those who cannot get their papers accepted in any decent journal anywhere else". I think this is still true.
Raman ensured his priority for the discovery of the Raman Effect (and hence the award of the Nobel Prize) because he published in an Indian journal. One can also give many examples of cases in recent years when Indian scientists got recognition and priority only because their papers were published in India.
Probably, the majority of the papers that Indians produce do not come under the two extreme categories Raman mentions
I agree with you that all our Science and Technological activities and concerns must have roots within our country and the scientific community has to acquire an Indian identity. In my limited way, I have attempted to propagate this idea. I think a time has come when younger people have to espouse this cause and fight this battle.