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The sleeping giant is rising to challenge

global order
8 October 2009

By Phil Baty

India's increasing productivity may lead to a 'new geography' of research worldwide. Phil
Baty reports

India is set to overtake the world's leading economies in terms of research output by
2020, according to a new study.

The latest Global Research Report from Thomson Reuters says that India is a "sleeping
giant" that is stirring, and warns that the US and Europe could lose out as its rapid growth
creates a "new geography" of global research.

The report, India: Research and Collaboration in the New Geography of Science, says
that India lags behind comparator countries in both research investment and output.

But the Indian Government aims to change that. Its five-year plan for 2007-12 includes a
fourfold increase in spending on education compared with the previous plan.

In 2009, government spending on scientific research accounted for 0.9 per cent of India's
gross domestic product; by 2012, the figure is expected to rise to 1.2 per cent.

The proportion of the Indian population holding graduate degrees rose from 2.4 per cent
(20.5 million) in 1991 to 4.5 per cent (48.7 million) in 2005.

Using data from the Thomson Reuters database, the report charts rapid growth in the
country's research output.

In 1981, India produced just 14,000 papers listed in the database, rising to barely 16,500
by 1998. But since then, there has been major growth to nearly 30,000 in 2007 - an 80 per
cent increase in nine years.

Jonathan Adams, director of research evaluation at Evidence, a Thomson Reuters

business, described India as a "sleeping giant that seems to be waking".

He said the 30,000 papers produced in 2007 still represented only 3 per cent of world
output, and that the absolute volume for India is still only about half that produced by
China, Germany, Japan or the UK.
"But if the trajectory continues, India's productivity will be on a par with most G8
countries (the world's leading industrialised nations) within seven to eight years, and will
overtake them by 2020."

Scientific strengths

India is particularly strong in agricultural engineering, producing 11.21 per cent of all the
papers published in the field between 2003 and 2007.

It also produced 8.32 per cent of world papers in tropical medicine, 8.29 per cent in
organic chemistry and 8.24 per cent in dairy and animal science.

The Thomson Reuters paper says: "India's activity is diverse ... with an emerging balance
between the life sciences and physical sciences."

It adds that the US is India's leading collaborative partner, although joint activity remains

"India appears to have been less well connected to international networks than other
countries, but it therefore retains a significant capacity to expand its collaborative links,"
the report says.

There are already signs that collaboration with other Asian countries is set to grow.

Mr Adams said: "While India's partnerships in Europe and America remained largely
stable over the past decade, it hugely increased its collaboration with South Korea. In
fact, India doubled its collaborative output with Asian partners.

"This may well signal the emergence of a regional research network and is certainly an
issue others will want to watch. India's research ties are marked by a sparsity of European
- particularly UK - partners."

Mr Adams pointed to the possibility that the new geography of research may see not only
new leading nations, but also a change in regional focus.

"Europe and the US will want to be partners, not just observers, of what happens," he

The report adds: "We suggest it is important for G8 partners to look to invest in their
relationship with India before the opportunity to engage in such links ... is pre-empted by
innovative regional neighbours