Rising Giants: The Emerging Scholarly Markets of India and China

Rising Giants: The Emerging Scholarly Markets of India and China

In the realm of scholarly publishing, India and China stand as formidable forces driving change. Their remarkable strides in research, underpinned by substantial investments in science and technology, are setting new benchmarks for the global industry. Beyond sheer volume, there’s a deeper narrative unfolding: a commitment to democratizing knowledge via open access. As we navigate this evolving landscape, the influence of these two nations is undeniable and pivotal.

In this blog post, we delve into the dynamic scholarly markets of India and China, exploring the catalysts driving their growth, the policy shifts steering their course, and the burgeoning open access movements within their borders. We also examine the implications of these changes for the global scholarly publishing industry, highlighting both the challenges and opportunities they present.

The Evolution of Scholarly Publishing in India and China


India’s journey in scholarly publishing has been transformative, evolving from traditional print-based models to embracing digital transformations. The country’s publishing landscape has seen significant growth, with India emerging as the third-largest publisher of science and engineering articles globally. As per the National Science Foundation’s report in 2018, India published over 135,000 articles, marking a significant contribution to global research.

This growth has been driven by major publishers and key sectors, including physical sciences, engineering and computer science. In fact, a 2019 report highlighted that India had the highest relative scholarly output in Physical Sciences, followed by Engineering, and Computer Science.

The adoption of digital platforms has been instrumental in this growth, offering a wider reach and facilitating faster dissemination of research. Furthermore, the use of English as the primary language in publishing has enabled Indian research to gain global visibility and recognition.


China’s scholarly publishing landscape presents a story of rapid ascent. The country’s rise in global research output is largely driven by substantial government funding and policy support. In 2021 alone, around 2.03 million scientific papers were published in China, marking a significant contribution to the global research output.

China’s approach to scholarly publishing is both deliberate and strategic, with the central government steering its course. Recognizing the importance of quality research, recent policy adjustments have been introduced to recalibrate the evaluation metrics for academic contributions. Instead of a sheer volume of publications, there’s a discernible emphasis on the significance and impact of ‘representative works’. This shift underscores China’s commitment to fostering genuine innovation and impactful research.

Parallel to the government’s initiatives, Chinese academic institutions are also playing their part. Chinese university presses, along with domestic commercial publishers, are not just passive participants but active shapers of the academic discourse. Their increasing prominence is a testament to China’s ambition to elevate its domestic journals to global standards, thereby reducing its dependence on Western-centric platforms.

The government-affiliated China Association for Science and Technology plans to add 50 new academic journals to be published in the country, reflecting the country’s ambition to elevate its scientific research’s global standing. As China continues on this trajectory, it’s evident that the nation is not just contributing to the global scholarly dialogue but is poised to redefine it.

Policy Shifts and Their Impact on Scholarly Publishing

Policy changes in India

India’s National Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy 2020 is a significant shift in the country’s approach to scholarly publishing. The policy introduces the ‘One Nation, One Subscription’ plan, a revolutionary concept that aims to democratize access to scholarly knowledge.

Under this plan, the government will negotiate with leading publishers to provide nationwide open access to their journals. This means that every individual in India will have access to all published literature, a move that could significantly increase the reach and impact of research conducted in the country.

The policy also proposes a central payment system for article processing charges (APCs) for all reputable APC-based journals. This move is expected to streamline the publication process and eliminate the financial burden on individual researchers or institutions.

This policy shift could have far-reaching implications for scholarly publishing in India. It could lead to a surge in research output as more researchers gain access to critical resources. It could also stimulate innovation and collaboration as the barriers to accessing research findings are reduced.

Policy changes in China

China, the world’s largest producer of scientific articles, has also introduced significant policy changes that could reshape the global STM publishing landscape.

The intensified push to publish has placed undue pressure on various members of the academic community, from post-grad students and physicians to junior scientists. As a result, some have turned to paper mills that sell authorship on fabricated research papers.

Others have been deceived by predatory publishers, who lure authors with the promise of publication in what appear to be legitimate journals, only to deliver substandard editorial processes after collecting hefty article processing charges (APCs).

Two recent policy documents from the Chinese government, namely “Some Suggestions on Standardizing the Use of SCI Paper Indexes in Higher Educational Institutes and Establishing Correct Evaluation Orientation” and “Some Measures to Eliminate the Bad Orientation of “Papers Only” in Science and Technology Evaluation (Trial)“, are targeted at overhauling the systems of evaluation in research and higher education within China.

“Some Suggestions on Standardizing the Use of SCI Paper Indexes in Higher Educational Institutes and Establishing Correct Evaluation Orientation”, seeks to redefine the criteria for academic evaluation, emphasizing the importance of quality and genuine contribution over mere publication counts. The second, “Some Measures to Eliminate the Bad Orientation of “Papers Only” in Science and Technology Evaluation (Trial)”, specifically addresses the pitfalls of a “publish or perish” culture, aiming to root out practices that compromise the integrity of scholarly publishing.

These policies shift the focus from quantity to quality of research output. They introduce a “representative works” system, where only a certain number of a researcher’s most important papers are considered for evaluation. Further, at least one-third of these representative papers must be published in domestic Chinese journals.

The policies also propose monitoring the quality of academic journals and publishing an Early Warning list of domestic and international journals. Journals with poor management, academic reputations, or those prioritizing commercial interests will be blacklisted.

These changes could significantly impact the global scholarly publishing landscape. They could lead to a decrease in the total number of paper submissions from Chinese authors to English language journals, particularly low-quality journals. They could also stimulate the development of high-quality domestic STM journals in China.

These policy shifts in India and China are poised to reshape the global scholarly publishing landscape. They reflect a shift towards open access and quality over quantity, trends that could influence policies in other countries as well.

The Open Access Surge in India and China

Open Access in India

India’s open access movement has seen significant progress over the years. A key milestone was the establishment of the Indian Council of Scientific and Industrial Research’s (CSIR) open access repository, which has played a pivotal role in promoting the free dissemination of research findings. The government’s policies, academic institutions, and funders have been instrumental in driving this movement. For instance, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) have mandated open access for research funded by them.

However, the open access movement in India faces several challenges. Infrastructure constraints, lack of awareness about open access among researchers, and issues of digital divide are some of the key hurdles. Despite these challenges, the push towards open access continues to gain momentum, with the government’s “One Nation, One Subscription” plan aiming to provide nationwide access to a comprehensive collection of scholarly literature.

Open Access in China

China’s open access landscape has evolved rapidly, with the government pushing for domestic journals to go open access. National funding bodies, academic institutions, and the government have played a crucial role in promoting open access. As mentioned earlier, the China Association for Science and Technology plans to add 50 new academic journals to be published in the country.

However, the open access movement in China faces its own set of challenges. Concerns about quality control, issues related to academic rewards and incentives, and the need for greater international cooperation and exchange are some of the key issues. Despite these challenges, Chinese authors are actively publishing in gold open access journals. Almost a third of articles with a corresponding author from China are published gold open access.

The implications of these developments are significant. As more and more research from India and China becomes freely accessible, it will not only enhance the visibility and impact of research from these countries but also contribute to the global knowledge base, fostering international collaboration and accelerating scientific progress.

Research Integrity: India and China Still have Work to do to Strengthen Trust in Research

China’s rapid academic growth has been shadowed by the proliferation of paper mills. These entities exploit the pressure to publish by selling authorship on artificially generated papers, often using advanced AI tools. Such practices not only undermine the credibility of genuine research but also jeopardize the reputation of Chinese academia on the global stage.

To counter this, the Chinese government and academic institutions need to:

  • Strengthen evaluation metrics: Move away from quantity-based metrics and emphasize the quality and impact of research. This would reduce the allure of paper mills.
  • Promote awareness: Launch campaigns to educate researchers about the pitfalls of associating with paper mills and the long-term damage it can inflict on their careers.
  • Enhance monitoring: Develop AI-driven tools that can detect artificially generated papers, ensuring they don’t find their way into reputable journals.

India: The Predatory Publishing Conundrum

India’s challenge lies in the realm of predatory publishing. Numerous publishers, under the guise of legitimate operations, deceive authors by charging them for publishing in subpar journals that lack rigorous peer review processes.

To address this, India needs to:

  • Establish a national white list: Create a list of recognized and reputable journals. This would guide researchers, especially early-career ones, in making informed publishing decisions.
  • Educate the academic community: Organize workshops and seminars highlighting the dangers of predatory publishing and how to identify such journals.
  • Strengthen Open Access platforms: By bolstering genuine open access platforms, India can offer researchers a credible alternative to predatory journals.

The Big Picture: What India and China’s Rise Means for Global Research

The rise of India and China in the scholarly publishing landscape is reshaping the global dynamics of research output. As these nations continue to increase their research output and influence, the global scholarly publishing industry is witnessing a shift in power dynamics. This shift is not only changing the geographical distribution of research output but also the way research is disseminated and accessed globally.

Challenges for International Publishers

The rise of India and China presents several challenges for international publishers. One of the key challenges is dealing with language barriers. While English remains the lingua franca of scientific communication, the increasing output of research in local languages, particularly in China, poses a challenge for non-native publishers.

Understanding the local research ecosystems is another challenge. Both India and China have unique research ecosystems shaped by their respective cultural, political, and economic contexts. In India, the democratic political structure allows a multitude of voices and perspectives, but it also means navigating a complex bureaucratic system. Economically, while there’s significant government funding, there’s also a burgeoning private sector contributing to research.

In China, the centralized political system ensures streamlined decision-making, leading to rapid implementation of research policies. The Confucian emphasis on education and respect for scholars has cultivated a culture that deeply values academic achievements. Economically, the state’s significant investment in R&D, coupled with private enterprises’ growing interest, has fueled a research boom.

Navigating these ecosystems requires a deep understanding of local research practices, funding mechanisms, and policy landscapes.

Opportunities for International Publishers

Despite these challenges, the rise of India and China also presents several opportunities for international publishers. The most obvious is the potential for increased global visibility. As more research from these countries becomes accessible globally, it enhances the visibility and impact of research, benefiting publishers who can effectively disseminate this research.

The growth of these countries also opens up new audiences for publishers. With the increasing number of researchers and scholars in these countries, there is a growing demand for high-quality scholarly content. Publishers who can cater to this demand stand to gain significantly.

Further, there are potential opportunities for partnerships with local entities. Collaborating with local publishers, academic institutions, or government bodies can provide international publishers with valuable insights into the local research ecosystem, helping them navigate the challenges and leverage the opportunities presented by these emerging markets.

In conclusion, the rise of India and China in the scholarly publishing landscape is a development of global significance. It presents both challenges and opportunities for international publishers. Those who can effectively navigate this changing landscape will be well-positioned to thrive in the new era of global scholarly publishing.

Closing Thoughts

The rapid growth of India and China in the scholarly publishing and open access landscape is a testament to the transformative power of policy, investment, and digital innovation. These nations are not just participants in the global research community but are increasingly shaping its future. Their rise is a reflection of a broader shift in the global knowledge economy, with emerging economies playing a more prominent role.

The trajectories of these nations suggest a future where access to research is democratized, where quality is valued over quantity, and where the global research community is more interconnected than ever. However, this future is not without its challenges. Infrastructure constraints, quality control, and the digital divide are issues that need to be addressed to fully realize the potential of open access.

The rise of India and China also underscores the importance of adaptability in the face of change. For international publishers, this means understanding and navigating new policy landscapes, overcoming language barriers, and building partnerships with local entities. It also means recognizing the opportunities that these changes present – opportunities to reach new audiences, to enhance global visibility, and to contribute to the advancement of global knowledge.

The challenge and opportunity for the global research community lie in embracing this change and working together to create a more inclusive, diverse, and dynamic global knowledge ecosystem.

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