National Mapping of Science - India: Agricultural Sciences*

Subbaiah Arunachalam
Project Investigator
MS Swaminathan Research Foundation
3rd Cross Road, Institutional Area, Taramani, Chennai-600113


Presents an assessment of India’s contribution to research in agriculture and related fields based on an analysis of publications indexed in CAB Abstracts published during 1990-1994. It attempts to map agricultural research in India and tries to answer questions such as which institutions are carrying out the research, in which journals Indian research works get published, in what sub-fields India is strong, and so on. It aims not only to inventory agricultural research in India but also to provide an appreciation of endogenous research capacity in this crucial field.


For this macroscopic study, the author identified all papers from India indexed in the CD-ROM edition of CAB Abstracts 1990-1994. There are two other international databases, viz., AGRIS and AGRICOLA covering agriculture which could have also been covered. The reasons for choosing CAB Abstracts are: AGRIS depends entirely on national input centres for gathering information and the job was not being done well (according to the author), and AGRICOLA does not cover Indian work as comprehensively as CAB Abstracts. Merely giving "India" as the search term in the address was not enough as CAB Abstracts, unlike Science Citation Index or INSPEC - Physics, does not give country names under all the entries. The author (investigator) therefore developed a search strategy in which he gave the names of all Indian cities and towns where there is an institution that was expected to carry out agricultural or related research. Names of such cities and towns were collected from sources such as the Universities Handbook, and Directory of R&D Institutions issued by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and Directory of Scientific Research Institutions in India issued by Indian National Scientific Documentation Centre (INSDOC). Some publications from countries like USA, Japan and Italy also showed up in the data thus downloaded, as names of some cities and towns in the list collected by the author are found in these countries as well. For example, Salem is in Tamil Nadu, and Winston-Salem is in USA, and Kochi is both in Kerala and Japan. Also, names of some institutions had several variants. For example, Bidhan Chandra Krishi Vishwavidyalaya is also referred to as B.C. Agricultural University and BCKV. The names of institutions were standardized and data cleaned up.

The elements downloaded are Address, Source (Journal title, volume, pages), Publication Year, Publication Type, and Classification Codes. To the data downloaded from CAB Abstracts, country of publication of the journals was added by collecting the information from different sources. Then, the data was converted into a database file and analysed using Foxpro.

Impact factors of journals (as given in Journal Citation Reports) were not added mainly because agricultural research is mostly published in low impact journals and agriculture is not well covered in Science Citation Index. Most journals in which Indian agricultural scientists publish are not indexed in Science Citation Index and therefore they would not be listed in Journal Citation Reports.


There were 51,761 publications from India in CAB Abstracts in the five years 1990-1994. Of these, the largest number of papers were published in the four years 1988-1992. About 30 per cent of the papers had a publication date of 1989 or earlier unlike the other international S&T databases such as Science Citation Index, Chemical Abstracts and INSPEC - Physics whose coverage is much quicker.

Indian researchers had published about 48,300 articles in about 1,950 journals as seen from CAB Abstracts 1990-1994 and the rest were non-journal items like books/book chapters, and conference papers. Indian agricultural scientists had published 1,560 articles in 61 letters journals or newsletters. Thus, Indian agricultural scientists contributed to letters journals, books/book chapters and conferences only to a limited extent. Probably, they should examine their publication strategy and make appropriate choices to increase their visibility.

Unlike in some other fields, Indian scientists in agriculture contribute to Indian journals to a very large extent; close to 77 per cent of all journal articles in the field were published in Indian journals. They contributed their papers to journals from more than 65 countries, mainly India, UK, USA, the Netherlands and Germany, in that order. The corresponding figures (coverage of Indian papers in Indian journals) for different fields are:

Physics (as seen from INSPEC - Physics 1992)


Medicine (as seen from Medline 1988-1994)


Mathematics (as seen from Mathsci 1988-1995)


Materials Science (Materials Science Citation Index 1991-1994)

Biology (as seen from BIOSIS 1992) 52.3%

This is mainly because of a misconception in developing countries about publishing in home-country journals. Often articles in foreign journals are given much higher weightage than articles in home-country journals not realizing that not all foreign journals are uniformly good. It must be noted that even mediocre journals published in the home country may occasionally publish some high quality papers and even international journals occasionally carry low quality articles.

Another reason for the trend shown above is, communication habits vary from field to field. In physics and material science which are far more universal, scientists prefer to publish in international journals, to maximize their chances of reaching out to a worldwide readership. But, in agriculture, which is far more rooted in the soil and locale specific, it is only to be expected that a large part of the work would be published in indigenous journals which would be easily accessible to other researchers, extension workers and the end users in the country (or region). Forty eight of the more than 480 Indian journals used, published at least 200 Indian papers in the five years, and 107 journals published 100 or more Indian papers.

The author classified the Indian papers indexed in CAB Abstracts 1990-1994 as per the sub-fields used for the database. CAB Abstracts assigns more than one sub-classification code to each paper, usually three to four but the author has taken only the first of these. ‘Pests, Pathogens and Plant Diseases’ is the sub-field accounting for the largest number of papers from India (8,898 papers). It is followed by ‘Plant Breeding and Genetics’ (5,675 papers) and ‘Plant Production' (5,231 papers).

There were only 231 papers in the area of ‘Biotechnology’, showing that India is slow in catching up in the rather important area of agriculture-oriented biotechnology. In the past two decades many schools of New Biology have emerged, e.g. at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore; Madurai Kamaraj University, Madurai; and M S University, Baroda. Conscious efforts to bring scientists in these schools and centres of agricultural research to work together may prove beneficial. In all, India published in 250 sub-fields, with more than 500 papers in 16 sub-fields.

At the other extreme, in 58 sub-fields Indian researchers published less than 10 papers in five years. These include history and biography (Class code BB500) - eight papers; agriculture equipment (Class code NN410) - nine papers; communication (Class code UU360) - four papers; and documentation (CC310) - two papers.

The 51,761 Indian papers indexed in the CAB Abstracts 1990-1994 were contributed from more than 3,300 addresses of institutions including academic and R&D institutions, colleges, companies and private addresses. Panjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana; Haryana Agricultural University (HAU), Hissar; and the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi are the three most prolifically contributing institutions. The Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TAU), Coimbatore, is the only other institution to have published more than 1,000 papers in the five years.

Most agricultural universities have laboratories/field centres at more than one location. For example, PAU has its headquarters at Ludhiana, but papers are also contrbuted from eight other centres and each centre is separately listed in the report. Not surprisingly, the top nine in the list are agricultural universities (including institutions devoted to dairy and veterinary sciences). Banaras Hindu University (BHU) and Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) are the only two general universities (not exclusively devoted to agriculture and related fields such as horticulture) in the top 25 institutions listed. The University of Delhi, which has excellent departments of Botany and Zoology, ranks twenty sixth.

Academic institutions — universities and colleges -are the leading performers of agricultural research and they account for about 63 per cent of all papers from India. The laboratories of ICAR account for about 11.3 per cent of Indian publications.

As per the contributions made by different states of India, Uttar Pradesh leads with over 8,300 papers, followed by Maharashtra (4,084 papers), Tamil Nadu (4,072 papers), Haryana (4,017 papers), Karnataka (3,984 papers) and Delhi (3,666 papers). Among the cities/towns, Delhi (3,664 papers), Ludhiana (2,636 papers), Hissar (2,545 papers) and Bangalore (2,086 papers) are the leading contributors. In all, papers were contributed from 830 cities/towns. Unlike institutions engaged in research in physics and materials science, institutions carrying out agricultural research are located in smaller towns and in remote locations. This is inevitable, as much of agricultural research is field-based.

* Prepared under National Mapping of Science Project, sponsored by NISSAT .The coverage of Indian S & T literature by foreign databases is not exhaustive. Hence, conclusions drawn based on this data may not always be correct. - Editor

Information Today & Tomorrow, Vol. 19, No. 2, June 2000, p.73-p.14 & p.17