In the talk in IISc,Prof. Venki Ramakrishnan, mentions
" “The quality or impact of work is much more important than the number of papers published,” he said while citing the example of double chemistry Nobel winner Fred Sanger who published only around 40 papers in his long career but who transformed molecular biology."
I could not agree more. However, the impact of the work has to be considerable, which is clearly what Venki is implying. It is famously said that what statistics reveal is suggestive but what they conceal is vital. Statistics like 40 papers hide more than what they reveal. I looked up the record of Sanger, whose work has led to the creation of the famous Sanger Institute. The impact is not measured by the number of papers but by the number of citations. The Web of Science shows that he has 66 research papers with 90,000 citations i.e, at an average of 1500 citations per paper. No Indian scientist can boast of such numbers either in number of citations or in the number of citations per paper. Only Prof. CNR Rao comes close with around 40,000 citations.
Thousands of scientists in India have 40 papers but not even 1000 citations. If they quote Sanger's example to justify their output and support, I can only quote Winston Churchill who asked whether we make the mistake of using statistics like a drunkard uses a lamp-post -- for mere support, rather than for illumination.