What was also unusual about how the grant was given to the 14 Universities first chosen was that it was based on the h-index, a recently introduced scientometric tool that has now gone viral. For those not familiar with it, the h-index of an academic is a number h such that h of her or his scholarly papers has been cited or quoted (formally, i.e. in a peer reviewed journal) at least h times. First introduced by Jorge Hirsch, the h-index (which has inspired any number of similar indices) captures both the longevity as well as the contribution of contemporary academic lives. On average, that is. A person who has written only 1 scientific paper that was cited once would have an h-index of 1. So would a person who wrote only 1 paper but had 1000 citations, say. Although the index cannot decrease with time, the largest h indices are typically associated with the famous and influential- Nobel laureates typically have indices between 60 and 100 (with the all time high being around 120 or so).
A related measure in the scholarly publishing arena is the impact factor of a journal which measures the average numbers of citations to recent articles in it. Discussing that could take up another post in itself, but the connection with the h-index is clear. Publishing in high impact factor journals is generally good for your h-index. Of course, doing great work is even better.
The DST decided to use the productivity and citability of the scholarly output of a university by calculating the h-index of the institution, namely aggregating papers by university (rather than by author). The hope is that this would reflect the carrying capacity of the institution to support research in a range of disciplines, and would therefore reflect the extent of the scholarly base.
By that token we did very well. Three Universities were classified as A class, Delhi, Panjab, and UoH, with indices above 50. Give the huge disparity is sizes its pretty clear that in general we punch significantly above our weight.
Anyhow, the PURSE grant (parenthetically one should note that the DST has a way with acronyms, and PURSE is just one in a list that includes FIST, BOYSCAST & INSPIRE…) was used to support research in the University, and somewhat narrowly, just science research. One can make the argument that it is the entire academic climate of an institution that matters. Perhaps when we get the second phase of the grant, PURSE-2, we can have a wider discussion on it and enlarge the beneficiaries as well.
Which brings me to the real point of this post, that many colleagues are doing particularly well on the matter of research, both in terms of its volume as well as its significance, and the PURSE award is just one recognition of that. So many have been elected to professional bodies, others are invited time and again to advise on issues related to research and academics. And several have got the India Citation Award organised by Thomson-Reuters in this as well as previous years. Some of the highest cited published work in the country- and thus some of the most influential ideas- have come out of UoH. By any yardstick, this is very impressive for so young an institution. Our collective thanks to all who contributed to this- You know who you are!
One way to continue that, to keep up the good work so to speak, would be to keep our standards high! Publishing in high impact journals, or in high quality journals that set a significant bar is one way. Doing work that is important is another. But staying active, not settling for less, and having academic longevity… That would probably be the best way of all…