Challenges and benefits of research collaboration in South Asia

Report by the World Bank and Elsevier

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The World Bank and Elsevier collaborated on the following report to examine research and collaboration in South Asia and beyond. The analysis focuses on research output and citation impact as well as intraregional, extraregional and cross-sector research collaboration, which are all important indicators of the strength and reach of the subcontinent's research enterprise.

South Asian countries (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, the Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) are very diverse. Hence, they are benchmarked against diverse global comparators such as Brazil, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. Further, most data in the report are normalized to allow for meaningful comparisons. The report draws on a variety of data sources including Scopus data, R&D expenditure, population and human capital data from the World Bank and UNESCO Institute of Statistics, and patent information from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and LexisNexis TotalPatent.

Publication date: February 2019

Key findings:

  • Together, the seven countries that comprise the South Asia region published just under 700,000 scholarly publications between 2012 and 2016, representing 5.3 percent of the world’s scholarly output during the period.
  • India alone accounted for 88 percent of the region’s scholarly publications, and thus trends in India strongly influence aggregated indicators for the region.
  • Though still modest by global standards, South Asia’s scholarly output is growing rapidly. Between 2012 and 2016, South Asia’s share in global scholarly output rose by 1.7 percentage points, reflecting a broad-based increase in publications among South Asian countries. However, all South Asian countries had relatively low levels of scholarly output relative to population size.
  • While the overall citation impact of South Asian research is below the global average, the citation impact of research produced in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Afghanistan, Bhutan, and the Maldives exceeds the global average, boosted by highly impactful large scale international collaborations.
  • Just under 20 percent of South Asian publications are the product of international collaboration, and India’s relatively low rate of international collaboration pulls down the regional average. Among South Asian countries, research output size appears to be inversely correlated with the frequency of international collaboration, as countries with the smallest research bases are the most likely to leverage international networks.
  • South Asia lacks a unified collaboration framework, and institutions in each country use different, independent systems to establish academic and scientific partnerships. Consequently, South Asian institutions are scattered across the global international collaboration network.