Addressing three major challenges for the Indian research community
Updated: Oct 13, 2020
The landscape of research and scholarly communications is continually changing. To balance the priorities of researchers, institutions, funders, publishers and intermediaries means that we have an ecosystem with significant challenges. In this post, we look at the research landscape in India and explore three challenges facing the scholarly community: research quality, open research, and predatory publishing.
India takes a positive stance against allegations around PhD theses
In May 2019, India’s University Grants Commission (UGC) made a bold stance by announcing the launch of a thesis review. The project, spanning all 851 of India’s universities, will look at theses from the last 10 years and will assess them in terms of research quality. The UGC will conclude with a report that will layout a research quality matrix or index. It will indicate which universities are producing high-quality theses, and which might be awarding theses without the expected level of scrutiny and quality control. There have been widespread concerns regarding the growth of plagiarism and manufactured research in India. The UGC is aiming to take control of the situation and deter these practices in the future.
Open research in India – saying no to Plan S
Launched in September 2018, Plan S is an initiative, lead by Coalition S, to achieve full and immediate open access for all research funded by public grants, by 2021. There has been a mixed reaction to the initiative, but in December 2018 a supporting statement was signed by 113 institutions from 37 nations across five continents. It demonstrates that there is widespread backing for this push on global open research. India was initially among those to volunteer their support for Plan S. However, as of October 2019, K. VijayRaghavan, the principal scientific adviser to the Government of India, has withdrawn this support and confirmed that India would not be signing up to Plan S.
Instead, India will be developing its own system for open research. It will focus entirely on optimizing open research for the benefit of Indian researchers, funders and institutions. It has been suggested that this announcement has come as a reaction to how Eurocentric some critics have claimed Plan S to be. It is also thought to be linked to the importance of impact factor and journal prestige in India, over the significance of open access options.
India moves to tackle the rise of predatory publishing
In 2018, a global project was carried out to assess the reliability and quality of 175,000 scientific articles. Part of this research was carried out by The Indian Express, who found over 300 predatory journals operating in India. Predatory journals may take an article from a researcher and publish it for a fee. However, they do not carry out the standard quality checks and peer review process which are at the heart of professional academic publishing. In response to this, the UGC launched investigations and discovered further predatory journals in operation. In 2019 they reduced their white list of approved journals from almost 5,000, down to just 800, to discourage researchers from publishing with predatory journals. It is hoped that by taking a strong stance against predatory journals, India is taking steps to eradicate what had become a thriving pay-to-publish culture.
Predatory publishing, research quality and the changing face of open research are all complex challenges that are faced globally, not just in India. India is facing these challenges head-on. It will be interesting to see how India will develop its open research initiative, and how this will affect publishing and journal rankings in India.