Nature Index released its Rising Star supplement 2016 recently. We were selected as one of the top ten countries which was declared as “Rising Star” by the supplement. Thanks to our top institutions for increasing their contribution to published research articles which also improved their ranks as well. This was perhaps one of the limiting factors for the poor show in the other world rankings and with this report and if we continue the trend, time is not far when we will be among the top institutes in the world.

Nature Index tracks top quality research papers of around 8000 institutions across the world. It is compiled by Nature Research, a part of McMillan Publishers Limited, London. Nature (founded 1869) journals are top rated, world class international publications delivering finest research on science and technology.

The Nature Index takes into account papers published in a predetermined list of 68 top class research journals. The journals are picked by an independent panel of active scientists. The methodology is pretty robust, transparent and yet very simple. Any article published by a single author of an institution/country is assigned a value of one (Article Count (AC)). If the article is published by more than one author then the Article Count (i.e. 1) is divided by the number of authors and the fraction score is assigned to the institution/country. This is known as Fraction Count (FC). To neutralize the large number of articles from astronomy and astrophysics journals it is down weighted by 0.2 factors. The figure after applying this is called Weighted Fraction Count (WFC). The rankings are based on Weighted Fraction Counts and the Rising Stars rankings are achieved on the basis of increase in WFC over the last period. This is then filtered on different parameters like subject/field etc.

Among new contenders India was among the 10 top performing countries in absolute increase in WFC, it stood second ahead of UK, Germany, Sweden and Australia. India scored a high in chemistry where in 2015 the WFC was 472.48 vis-à-vis it was 350.39 in 2012. Last year we contributed 576 chemistry research papers to the index. In the top hundred ranking based on increase in WFC we had 5 institutes in the list, ahead of countries like Switzerland, South Korea and Australia.

IISERKIISER Kolkata – Image by RikChem via wikimedia commons (CC-BY-SA 4.0)

IIT’s find their place at Rank 16 in the top 100, where they are combined together as a single unit. Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) is the surprise entry at world rank 24. Here again all the IISER’s is taken as one institute. Indian Institute of Science is at No. 66. The other two institutes in this list is Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) and Council for Science and Industrial Research (CSIR). In the top 25 institutes in South and South East Asia, we bag twenty places here, clearly showing our edge compared to our immediate neighbors. The shining star is IISER which was founded as recently as 2006. In spite of being a young institute, it has done well by contributing maximum papers in chemistry.

Though we have done reasonably well but it is not the time to rest on our laurels. We must start focusing on, apart from chemistry, on other faculties as well. We must replicate the good work done in chemistry to other streams. We are dwarfed in front of China in almost all parameters. We must learn from China the sheer pace and aggressiveness it shows in the field of scientific research. China being a large economy and well established research ecosystem it is way ahead of the similar top countries which has led the world so far. It still scores very high on growth of WFC of articles.  Their institutes’ bagged the top 9 ranks in the world ranking all ahead of Oxford University of UK. All the other mature universities are showing signs of saturation in terms of growth of research papers but China remains strong, agile and growing. We must also learn especially from UK, how to efficiently spend funds on research so that we can maximize output with little input cost. We don’t do as well as others in this aspect. It is important for India, since we are a growing economy and our resources are limited. But that should not stop us from continuing this good work; we have the talent to become the top ranking country not only in the “growth of WFC” parameter but in the absolute WFC as well.