It's easy to get depressed after reading articles ...that provide a snapshot of the state of science (or, academia in general) in India. But snapshots do not tell us anything at all about the tremendous changes that we have been seeing and experiencing in India in the past decade or so. To get a good sense of the direction and pace of these changes, what we need are studies that track India's progress over the last several decades.
Therefore, I wrote such a paper recently, which will be published shortly. A snapshot from this paper.
Figure 1a shows that the total number of publications from India, China and USA over the period of 1960 to 2010. USA had a sharp increase in the number of publications in the early 1970s, while China shows a sharp increase in 2002. In 1996, India, China and USA published around 20, 27 and 320 thousand papers, respectively. By 2002, India and USA published around 26 and 320 thousand papers, respectively, indicating that the growth of publications were not significant in this time period. However, by 2002, China had increased its number of publications to 57 thousand, twice what it had published in 1996. However, the real remarkable growth is in the period from 2002 to 2009. In 2009, India, China, USA published 58, 280 and 414 thousand papers, respectively i.e., compared to 1996, India had increased by a factor 3, China had increased by a factor of 20, while USA increased by 30%.
One can look at the share of publications (i.e., number of publications published by the country divided by the total number of publications in the world). USA showed a marked drop in share of world papers from 40 to 29 percent between 1981 and 2008 while India has remained nearly constant with a world share of 3.0% in 1981 and 3.3 percent in 2008. As expected, China has shown exceptional growth in global share over the 1981-2008 period while Australia, Brazil and South Korea also increased their share of publications.
Figures 2a to 2f show the total number of publications from India, China and USA in major science journals from 1980 to 2010. The increase of number of papers in these top journals mirrors that the increase in the overall number of publications. An increase in the overall number of papers leads to an increase of papers both in the top journals and the bottom journals. Thus, the number of citations per paper has remained nearly constant (Fig 3) over the years for India, China and USA. This clearly indicates that an increase in the number of papers does not necessarily lead to loss of quality.