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BW Businessworld

India Is Doing High Quality Work In Disaster Science: Michiel Kolman, Senior VP, Elsevier

When you look at the growth rate of countries with respect to their publications in sustainability science from 2009-2013, China is leading with 20.9 percent, while India is second with 18.2 percent.

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In 2015, 194 nations committed to the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) over the next 15 years. Given India’s socio-economic imbalance as well as spotty infrastructures and markets, attaining the SDGs and its 169 targets over the time frame seems like an overly-ambitious task and a pipe dream. 


Perhaps therein lies an opportunity for India to recalibrate its academic priorities to focus on a singular and more relevant branch of science – sustainability science – to help build a sustainable future for Indian citizens so that no Indian gets left behind.

Elsevier, an Information Analytics company, analyzed India’s state of play in sustainability science in a comprehensive benchmark report: Sustainability Science in a Global Landscape.

In an exclusive interview with Anurit Kanti of BW BusinessWorld, Michiel Kolman, Senior Vice President of Elsevier discusses the report on India’s research landscape and how it can move forward to achieve its scientific and sustainability goals. Edited Excerpts:


Is India investing enough into sustainability science, particularly in areas that are of immediate concern to the country?
We did a study on the science of sustainability and found that of all the publications, 3 percent are about sustainability science worldwide. We see that there is a quite a divide between the global north and the global south. 

So 76 percent of all the publications on sustainability come from high-income countries and only 2 percent are from low-income countries. What is interesting is that when you look at the growth rate of countries with respect to their publications in sustainability science from 2009-2013, China is leading with 20.9 percent, while India is second with 18.2 percent. 

We see that India is certainly contributing a lot, and its growing faster than all the other countries except China.

Is India collaborating enough in these priority areas to generate real benefits?
I am glad you mentioned collaboration, because if you look at the research of sustainability science from India, the quality is pretty low. The way to measure that is field-weight citation impact, which is 1 for world average, and we see that for India for sustainability science, the citation impact is 0.96, which is 4 percent below the world average. And other countries do much better in sustainability science.

But if you compare sustainability science in India with overall science and research, sustainability science does much better because overall, India’s research performance is at 0.75, which is 25 percent below the world average. So you could improve the quality of research through international collaboration. 

We see a very clear correlation that the more you publish internationally with other countries the higher the impact of your research. And India is at the bottom four, with relatively low international co-authorship. So India should publish more internationally co-authored articles, there is room for improvement there.

How can India contribute and what can it do given its social & environmental challenges?
One important which I think is very important as an illustration of sustainability science is disaster science and its resilience. If you look at the regional distribution of disasters, a very high number of them happen in Asia. 

So in 2015 out of 346 reported disasters, 152 came out of Asia and 19 came out of India. And of course this has an enormous impact where more than 20,000 people died, around 100 million affected, and a very high economic impact of 66.5 billion dollars.

So it’s very important that countries invest in disaster science. So if you look at the number of articles, which is the indication of how active a country is in disaster science, India is at par with Germany, they publish the same number of articles. 

In terms of citation impact, with 1 as world average, China is at 0.9, below world average, while India is at 2.14, well above the world average. Within the Asian countries too, India is in the lead, outperforming Japan and Thailand and China. So in disaster science, India is taking a very strong position.

How should India move forward?
So India is doing high-quality work in disaster science, and if you look at all the rankings in specialized areas such as the science around earthquakes, drought, volcano, cyclone, tsunami, floods etc., India is there in the top 5 for many rankings, but often it is number 5 or number 4, so I think there is room for much more improvement.

International collaboration, investment in eminent universities and corporate-academia collaboration would definitely improve India’s research landscape in sustainability science, and overall scenario.


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