Just 35% Indian research papers open-access, BHU’s data analysis platform shows

BHU team’s Indianscience.net analyses science and tech research data – citations, collaborations, funding, gender distribution and more – in India.

BHU researchers built the website with a grant from the Department of Science and Technology (source; Shutterstock)BHU researchers built the website with a grant from the Department of Science and Technology (source; Shutterstock)

Atul Krishna | January 11, 2023 | 01:24 PM IST

NEW DELHI: Only about 35% of India’s scientific research publications is open–access, even though a large chunk of the research itself is public-funded, an analysis of research data by a team at Banaras Hindu University (BHU) has found. It has also found that less than a third of Indian research papers have women as lead authors.

The analysis of research output – publications, citations, the fields, collaborations and more – was made possible by a site that BHU scholars set up, Indianscience.net, which aims to help students, research scholars, policy-makers and funding agencies keep track of Indian research activities. It tells you which organisation provides the highest grants for research in India, which educational institution contributes most, and even which papers are being discussed by the general public on social media.

Launched in July 2022 and built with a grant from the Department of Science and Technology (DST), the website aims to fill the gap in public analysis of scientific research in India. The research scholars, mostly from the departments of computer science, believe that, with the yearly updates, this platform will help students and researchers find specific data about the kind of research and the kind of collaborators they want to work with.

At present, the website has data from 2010-2019. However, from July 2023, Indiascience.net will be updated with new data every year.

“The main users would be students who are looking for an institution or university where they want to take admission; researchers who are looking for specific indicators, or looking for particular collaborations related to particular projects that they would want to work on. Then, there would be the policy makers, regulators or funding agencies that are looking for a specific kind of profile for an institution or a group of institutions to take on a particular work or a project,” said Anurag Kanaujia, post doctoral fellow, BHU. The team is led by Vivek Kumar Singh, professor of computer science at BHU, and comprises research associate Hiran H Lathabai, and research scholars Mousumi Karmakar, Abhiru Nandy, Satya Swarup Srichandan, Prashasti Singh, Aakash Singh, and Kanaujia.

Filling a data vacuum

Indianscience.net was born out of the research scholars’ own need for such data.

“Our team works in the area of scientometrics. We have been observing that there is no comprehensive assessment of what research products are out there. There is a vacuum. That is where we started looking at the possibility of developing a resource like this,” said Kanaujia. Scientometrics is the study of measuring and analysing scientific research papers and literature.

They noted that, apart from reports that are commissioned infrequently, India lacks a platform to access and analyse the scientific research that is done in educational institutions.

“There is no portal in India which talks about science and technology data that speaks about Indian institutions and India as a whole. Ad hoc reports come in once every year or once every two years. Sometimes the department of science and technology commissions such reports,” said Singh.

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The Indianscience.net looks at specific parameters that are in line with the parameters prescribed by science, technology and innovation studies and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an intergovernmental organisation consisting of 37 of the most developed countries.

“In science, technology and innovation studies, we look at certain standard parameters for countries or within countries that are defined in the literature of these studies,” explained Vivek Kumar Singh, professor, department of computer science, BHU. The parameters are prescribed by the OECD and the discipline.

The platform collates research done on science and technology by over 1,000 India institutions and analyses them based on several parameters such as the number of citations, the gender distribution, domestic and international collaborations, number of open access journals, social media visibility and research related to sustainable development goals (SDG).

Open access research papers, gender

The analysis has produced interesting findings. For instance, researchers found that a sizable percent of research is not available as open access despite being funded by the government. According to its records, 35.13% of India’s research was open-access in 2019; out of the 20 countries considered, India was ahead of only China (34.45%) and Iran (32.49%).

“It is mandatory that whatever research is produced from funds given by CSIR (Council of Scientific & Industrial Research) or other government bodies should be openly accessible. This is a policy. But unfortunately that's not the case. What we have observed is that people do produce research output but all of that is not openly accessible,” said Singh.

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Their analysis also looked at the gender disparity in science and technology research.

For instance, they found that only 29.3 percent of Indian papers – less than a third of the total – have women as the lead author. It also found that history, archaeology, built environment and design and law and legal studies have a slightly higher percentage of research papers with women as lead authors.

The analysis shows a small growth in international collaborations for research in India, from 18.92% in 2010 to 22.98% in 2019. By then, 20 percent of India’s research output in science and technology involved collaboration at the international level and that 15 percent of the research is based on domestic collaborations.

NIRF has ‘limited’ research data

“Availability of data is the main hurdle we feel because of which there is a lack of such portals and such resources. There are two major databases that are well known – Web of Science, and Dimensions. Dimensions came after 2010 and they have a wider coverage and more curated stuff. They are also a paid database. We had an agreement with them and from there we got the data,” said Kanaujia.

The website collates data from Dimensions and Altmetric, two international websites that index research papers and scholarly articles.

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The researchers said that building such a platform was crucial as even the education ministry’s National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) does not look at research output with much depth.

“We don’t use NIRF data because NIRF only has a limited amount of data. Even that ranking is limited in the sense that only 40 percent of the weightage goes to research output and the rest of it is based on data submitted by institutions, based on outreach and on teaching, learning activities and so on,” said Singh.

“NIRF doesn’t talk about how institutes are collaborating with other countries or how India as a whole is collaborating with other countries and it doesn't talk about gender distribution. So, what we wanted is a comprehensive picture of India, as a whole and of the constituent units,” said Singh.

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The website also looks at the social media visibility of research papers to find out how much of the research is discussed by the general public.

“We also analysed social media visibility. For example, it is often said that the research published is consumed only by scientists. Now, what about the reach of the research output to the general public to the common journalists and so on. So that is when we wanted to find out how much research output produced by theIndian institutions is discussed in the popular social media platform and what is being discussed,” said Singh.

The social media visibility is tracked through Crawlers, a computer programme that automatically finds and indexes content specified by the user.

Broadening research data analysis

The BHU team is now looking to broaden the analytics to include research on SDG goals.

“Currently, we are looking at the SDG goals or collaborations. We can further improve that and look at the G20 goals, water-related SDGs and more. Currently there is some focus on individual SDGs but we are thinking of increasing it further,” said Kanaujia.

“Right now, we have focused on which research from the institution talks about SDG and which particular goal it talks about. We want to look more into research in SDG to look more into the composition, the concept, the thematic structure,” said Singh.

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