Buoyed by a low base and a raft of other factors, Pakistan and Egypt have topped the list of countries by research output—40 countries—in percentage increase terms in 2018 over 2017. Publications rose by 21% and 15% in the two countries, respectively. While China’s publications rose by 12% in the period, emerging economies like India, Brazil and Iran did well, too, clocking 8% increases—above the world average of 5%. That’s a startling change from as recently as 1980, when 90% of all science research was from five countries—the US, the UK, Japan, Germany and France. Now, as per the Ohio State University, there are 20 in the group of top scientific-research producers.
In terms of the absolute number of research papers published, the US and China have a sharp lead over the others, but, India, which saw a export of STEM brains in the last couple of decades, is still in the reckoning at the 8th spot. The US may soon find it difficult to keep its spot at the top—China was just 35,000 papers short this year. India, thus, must take a cue from China’s two-pronged strategy, one directed at pushing up research volume in the country and the other at pushing up research quality and impact. For STEM research in Scopus, the world’s biggest catalogue of abstracts and citations, China’s share has risen from 4% in 2000 to 19% in 2016, beating the US. Research originating in China has been cited 39.2 million times between 1996-2017; Indian research has been cited less than a third as much in that period. This has come on the back of massive increases in university-funding and R&D expenditure by the Chinese government. India, which spends no mean sum on R&D, must increase it manifold and reform higher education if it is to even approach China’s heft.