New report suggests higher scholarly impact if South Asian countries collaborate globally, but intra-regional collaboration may be key to tackling local challenges

Analysis details the impact of scientific collaboration, along with opportunities and gaps, across South Asian nations and comparator nations

Colombo, Sri Lanka, March 30, 2019

A joint report by Elsevier, the information analytics business specializing in science and health, and the World Bank shows that over a five-year period between 2012 and 2016, the South Asian region published 679,571 papers, accounting for 5.3 percent of the world’s scholarly output—increasing the region’s share of global scholarly output by 1.7 percentage points over the study period.

The region’s widely-diverse profile of population size, economic output, geographic features, natural resources, cultural characteristics, development priorities, national education, and research policies account for large variations in the respective level of scholarly output. For example, researchers based in India produced almost 600,000 papers between 2012 and 2016, while researchers in the Maldives produced less than 100 papers over the same period.

While researchers in India produce the most scholarly papers in the region – with India and Sri Lanka publishing more papers per researcher than the world average – research from several smaller countries achieves greater citation impact than the global average; their relatively modest output is boosted by impactful large-scale international research projects. Along with India, South Asia’s overall citation impact is below the world average, but that of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Afghanistan, Bhutan and the Maldives exceeds the global average.

While international collaboration can yield highly significant benefits among countries with lower levels of GDP and GERD by enabling them to leverage and complement the resources of countries with more developed research bases, the report showed that India undertakes relatively low levels of international collaboration when compared to other South Asian nations, so that less than 20 percent of South Asia’s scholarly publications results from international collaboration.

“It’s clearly evident that globally across disciplines, international collaboration is driving positive research output and impact,” said Maria de Kleijn, Vice President of Analytical Services, Elsevier. “Given the relative smaller economies when compared to other regions, South Asian countries will reap the benefits from increased international and extra-regional collaboration.”

Other key findings in the report include:

  • Economic size appears to be inversely correlated with international collaboration, as South Asian countries with the smallest economies are the most reliant on international collaboration networks.
  • International collaborations in South Asian countries generally reflect areas of national specialization such as agricultural sciences, and are less frequent in the social sciences and the humanities.
  • While extra-regional collaborations can help South Asian countries address challenges that extend beyond the region, intra-regional scholarly collaborations help address common regional challenges in areas such as agriculture, medicine and infrastructure.
  • Academic-corporate collaborations in South Asia occur at about half the global rate. Only Afghanistan exceeds the global rate for academic-corporate collaborations.
  • Except for Afghanistan, most other South Asian countries and their extra-regional comparators tend to have fewer patent citations than the world average in relation to their scholarly output.

This report measures scholarly output in terms of the total number of peer-reviewed scholarly publications (including research papers, systematic reviews, and conference proceedings) compiled in the Scopus® database. Scholarly output for each country is defined as the number of published papers with at least one author from that country. Intraregional collaboration is defined as collaboration between researchers based in at least two South Asian countries, and no researcher outside of South Asia. Extra-regional collaboration is defined as collaboration between at least one researcher in South Asia and one research outside of South Asia.

Because South Asian countries vary in population and economic size, it is challenging to directly compare their scholarly output and impact. The Field-Weighted Citation Impact (FWCI) indicator can control for differences in citation activity by subject area, document type, and publication year. Normalizing publication data by GDP, GERD, population size, or number of researchers facilitate cross-country comparisons.

Sources used for this report include Elsevier’s Scopus, the World Bank, UNESCO, and WIPO.


Note for editors
The South Asian region is comprised of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, the Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Journalists who wish to receive a copy of the report can download from this link:
Those who wish to schedule an interview with a report expert can contact Jason Chan at

About World Bank
The World Bank Group is one of the world's largest sources of funding and knowledge for developing countries. It comprises five closely associated institutions: the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA), which together form the World Bank; the International Finance Corporation (IFC); the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA); and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). Each institution plays a distinct role in the mission to fight poverty and improve living standards for people in the developing world. For more information, please visit,, and

About Elsevier
Elsevier is a global information analytics business that helps scientists and clinicians to find new answers, reshape human knowledge, and tackle the most urgent human crises. For 140 years, we have partnered with the research world to curate and verify scientific knowledge. Today, we’re committed to bringing that rigor to a new generation of platforms. Elsevier provides digital solutions and tools in the areas of strategic research management, R&D performance, clinical decision support, and professional education; including ScienceDirect, Scopus, SciVal, ClinicalKey and Sherpath. Elsevier publishes over 2,500 digitized journals, including The Lancet and Cell, 39,000 e-book titles and many iconic reference works, including Gray's Anatomy. Elsevier is part of RELX Group, a global provider of information and analytics for professionals and business customers across industries.

Media contact
Jason Chan
+65 6349 0240