Researching India

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Government policies on research, open-access discussions and the role of different information sources are important topics. N V Sathyanarayana, chairman and managing director of Informatics (India), gives a perspective of the industry in India

What is the Indian research landscape like?

India has over one billion people but the researcher population is around a tenth that of the USA. The government is doing much to change this, with policies to increase the country’s research spending from less than one per cent GDP to two per cent. R&D spending by the government in India is substantially more than by the Industry. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has dedicated one of its research institutes, NISCAIR (National Institute of Science Communication and Information Resources), to publishing peer-reviewed journals.

The number of papers published by Indian scientists is increasing. To encourage research and more research publications, universities are linking faculty promotion to papers published in international peer-reviewed journals. The University Grants Commission also funds publication of new research journals by non-profit organisations. These are very good developments, but in the competition for numbers, quality may suffer. I see India following a similar route to that of China. I think what will happen is that first the number of papers will go up and then the quality will follow.

In India high-quality research is done by research institutions, of which we have more than 300, and their quality of research and publications is globally comparable. However, Indian higher education is funded more by the private sector and the quality of publications from higher education may initially suffer.

Journal publishing in India is predominantly controlled by government or learned societies. There are hardly any commercial journal publishers of Indian origin. International publishers still dominate the scene.

There are a dozen library consortia in India. They are largely centrally-funded and it is much cheaper for buying subscriptions this way. Major research institutions and universities have access to around 8,000 to 10,000 research journals through consortia models.

Of late, the Indian government has subjected the software industry to regulatory control through taxation, which is proving to be a serious hindrance for the growth of the electronic information industry. The lack of clarity on content and software as two different objects is the main cause of such a situation. The government has introduced tax on software (and presumably applicable for e-content too) by amending the tax laws.

What is the situation with open access in India?

Open-access advocacy is very strong in India. NISCAIR has made its 18 research journals available as open access, as has another leading publisher, the Indian Academy of Science. MedKnow, the first and successful commercial open-access publishing company in medical sciences, was founded in India and recently acquired by Wolters Kluwer.

Indian librarians play a particularly active role in open access too and ROAR (Registry of Open Access Repositories) currently estimates that India has 96 institutional repositories.

There are 1830 Indian journals in our J-Gate product and 1200 of these are open access. In fact, whether or not they are open access may not be an issue because the average cost of subscribing to Indian journals is very low (the equivalent of less than £40 on average) so any one can afford them. The costs are met in other ways such as by pricing the print subscriptions, government subsidies and advertisements.

What does your company do?

We have two content products - J-Gate and India Business Insight Database (IBID) - and one technology product (FedGate). We provide content management and editorial services to publishers and information companies. Recently we have launched an end-to-end publishing support service to small publishers using Open Journal Management System (OJMS) platform. We also act as distributors in India for international publishers of scholarly content.

IBID started as a service to a company in the USA. This product indexes content from 160 English-language newspapers and magazines. I strongly believe that much non-peer reviewed information – such as in specialist magazines - has a lot of value for researchers. We sell this product in India and also license it for global distribution to DowJones, Lexis-Nexis, Dialog and others.

Our main product, J-Gate, started 10 years ago and is the world’s largest e-journal portal, indexing articles from more than 29,700 journals and magazines. It is also the largest database for open-access journal content, covering more than 11,700 open-access journals in English.

J-Gate supports the filtering of searches by peer-reviewed journals or trade & industry journals. The consortia version of J-Gate facilitates libraries to network among themselves for resource sharing.

We have just launched J-Gate on a new platform and released it in the UK. We are looking for good distributors to help make it a global product.

Interview by Siân Harris