A Nature Index analysis

India’s high-quality research output in a global context

Figure 3 R&D expenditure and overall output in the Nature Index 2014 | India’s R&D spending as a percentage of its GDP is relatively low compared to other nations with a similar output in the Nature Index 2014.

India’s marked growth sets it apart from the comparator countries considered in this study. Of these countries, only Russia experienced a similar increase in growth rate, although its weighted fractional count (WFC) is less than half of India’s (Fig. 3). The Nature Index highlights India’s historic love affair with chemistry — mirroring a strong propensity towards the discipline across Asia — and the physical sciences.

Figure 4 Indian institutions are highly ranked in Chemistry | This graph shows Indian institutions in the context of a selection of well-recognized global institutions in the field of chemistry. Indian institutions are rubbing shoulders with many global leaders in the Nature Index. Global institutional ranks are for chemistry WFC output in the Nature Index for 2014. Full size image (157 KB)

In chemistry, India’s top institutions are competitive with those in Europe, the USA and Asia, and stand up to be counted among the world’s top ranks (Fig. 4). India is ninth (WFC = 448.9) in the index global ranking for Chemistry (Fig. 5). Not surprisingly, the top-ten journals where Indian scientists publish are all in chemistry and the physical sciences, with 50 per cent of India’s overall Nature Index output coming from chemistry alone (Fig. 6).

Figure 5 Global Top 30 in the Nature Index 2014 | India’s position at number 13 in the world puts it among the global leaders in producing high-quality science. Full size image (25 KB)

Between 2012 and 2014, Indian chemistry research increased particularly rapidly, with the country’s chemistry-specific WFC growing by almost 100 over the course of three years with a compound annual growth rate of 8.6 per cent. This is the largest increase among the comparator countries considered here.

Indian institutions compare very favourably on a global level in chemistry, producing more output in the Nature Index during 2014 than some of the world’s top institutions in Asia, Europe and North America (Fig. 4). In particular, the Indian Institutes of Technology are among the world’s top institutions in chemistry (ranked 24th globally in 2014), rubbing shoulders with world class centres such as the University of Cambridge (at 20) and Osaka University (at 25).

Overall, Asia’s traditional strength in the physical sciences and chemistry reflects a regional pattern — besides India, other Asian nations such as Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea show a great focus on these subject areas. However, these countries show greater engagement in the life sciences than India. Russia as a traditional stronghold in the physical sciences is continuing to produce most of its output in this discipline (Fig. 6).

Figure 6 Relative subject area focus | Indian research published in the Nature Index in 2014 is focused on chemistry and the physical sciences relative to its overall output. Graph shows the percentage of each country’s overall WFC arising from research in four broad subject areas. Red line is the global average. Note the scale amplifies values below 10 for clarity. Full size image (141 KB)

*Subject areas can overlap, so that the total percentage may exceed 100 per cent.

Italy, by comparison, has a more balanced output. Across the Atlantic, Brazil’s strongest interest is also in the physical sciences, although it also has one of the highest relative Earth and environmental sciences outputs. Of all the countries, Australia is the most balanced, with a slight emphasis on the life sciences.

India’s global collaboration network