A Nature Index analysis

India’s top institutes: an international comparison

Published online 3 December 2015

The Indian success story contains recent highlights of scientific brilliance, especially in materials science, nanosciences and astrophysics, at its many Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). These technology schools have the country’s highest institutional WFC, followed by the government-funded laboratories of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISER).

Aside from conglomerates or groups of institutes, the standalone institute that shines through is the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) with its formidable chemistry and physical sciences departments. The Tata Institute of Fundamental Research with its strong fundamental research in particle physics and astrophysics made a mark with its contribution to the CERN experiments that led to the discovery of the Higgs boson particle.

Rounding out the top-ten institutions in India in 2014 are the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science (IACS), Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), Harish-Chandra Research Institute (HRI), University of Hyderabad (UoH) and Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics (SINP) (Fig. 8).

Figure 8 Indian institutions’ global standing | This graph shows Indian institutions in the context of a selection of well-recognized global institutions. Overall, India’s leading science power houses are well placed to compete on a global level. Global institutional ranks are for overall WFC output in Nature Index 2014. Full size image (153 KB)

For this analysis, Indian institutions were compared to foreign institutions based on geography, international reputation and comparative global ranks. For instance, the IITs rank 51st in the index, placing them close to top universities in the region such as Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and National University of Singapore (NUS) in Singapore. The IITs also rank close to top institutions in Europe and the USA, and surpass some of the world’s top research hubs, such as the LMU in Germany (59) and RIKEN in Japan (61).

Most of the top institutions reflect the country’s focus on research in chemistry, followed by the physical sciences. The Nature Index 2014 reflects a paucity of research in the life sciences and Earth and environmental sciences. An exception to this generalization is IISc, which achieved 18 per cent of its overall WFC in the life sciences. TIFR and HRI are also notable exceptions, focusing heavily on the physical sciences.

Collaborations: more global, less local