In the fields of astronomy, nuclear physics, and high-energy physics, India is a prominent participant in large international research programs. Individual researchers and institutes, on the other hand, continue to have difficulties in gaining recognition.
Shravan Hanasoge commented on the underrepresentation of Indian scientists in foreign journals and review committees in a Viewpoint essay on the visibility issues for Asian scientists published last year. He linked this to India’s “geographic disadvantage,” in that it is “far from the world’s major centers of scientific expertise.” However, in many sectors, a significant amount of work is done in large, worldwide partnerships, with India playing a key role. In this issue, we look at the beneficial impact of large-scale research initiatives in India through a Viewpoint and a Comment, as well as the shadows that large-scale partnerships shed on individual contributions.
Joining an international large science project has various advantages, including training opportunities for new researchers, access to otherwise pricey equipment, and the development of regional technical capability, to mention a few. Furthermore, one of the topics that arose from the Viewpoint was that the skills and techniques created during such partnerships might be leveraged to build large-scale research initiatives locally, therefore multiplying the advantages. Rohini Godbole, for example, discusses how her experience working at CERN helped to facilitate the Indian Neutrino Observatory. As Shishir Deshpande points out, expertise gained at the ITER nuclear fusion plant is likely to benefit current and future Indian fusion programs.
While India’s high-energy physics and nuclear communities have benefited from international cooperation, the Indian space program has mostly been self-contained and has served as a platform for international engagement. The Indian space program began in the 1960s, when the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station was established, as Tirtha Das and colleagues explain in the Comment. It has been open to all United Nations members since 1968. AstroSat, a multiwavelength observatory aboard a spacecraft launched in 2015, also works on a proposal basis, serving astronomers from 50 different nations.
It is undeniable that Indian scientists gain from and contribute to large-scale international programs. The problem of visibility, however, persists. When Satyendra Nath Bose penned a letter to Albert Einstein 100 years ago, one mythical worldwide partnership started, and the physics community continues to honor their eponymous work on Bose–Einstein statistics. When large partnerships publish papers nowadays, the author list might number in the hundreds, and institutional connections are often overshadowed by the consortium name. As a result, determining the contribution of particular scientists or specific nations is difficult.
As the quantity and size of large-scale research initiatives grows, so does the need to better understand and analyze the networks that underpin them. New visualization tools, as explored in a Perspective in this issue, are among these initiatives. Geographically mapping the collaboration network of institutions, for example, can reveal information about the kind of contributions made by various nations.
However, recognizing the contributions of individuals within such large consortia is difficult. One option is to concentrate on the technical components of the project’s hardware or software, which are frequently produced by individuals or small research groups (Y. P. Viyogi, Curr. Sci. 99, 890–892; 2010).