Publishing metrics and agricultural science

Having achieved an H-index of 100, Rajeev Varshney* explains what the metric means in scientific publishing and why it is a milestone, especially in an agricultural scientist’s life.

H-index is an author-level metric that measures both productivity and citation impact of an author’s publications across the global scientific community. It is calculated by counting the number of publications in which an author has been cited by other authors. H-index 100 means each of the latest 100 of the author’s papers have been cited at least 100 times.

Opinions vary on these metrics and the number of citations is not the only way to measure scientific impact. But it certainly is one of the many metrics that recognise scientists’ publishing lives, and in turn, their science. Research publications are a great way to share the latest advancements in science with the global community. They also help reduce redundancy or duplication in research while directly or indirectly saving the valuable time and effort of the scientific community as also taxpayers’ money.

Generally speaking, medical science generates more research innovations that are used by different biological disciplines, including agricultural sciences. As a result, citations in medical science research are higher than agricultural science publications. When agricultural science publications have high citations, it does indicate that the research is making an impact in advancing science. The milestone of 100 h-index is a recognition of the high-quality science at ICRISAT with colleagues and partners from across the globe.

The metric that matters even more

The real battle that agricultural science should wage is against hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition. Scientists in the same discipline anywhere can learn from the latest research and take it forward to address issues of smallholder farmers while advancing the cause of scientific research for global good.

As scientists, we believe in every study we conduct irrespective of the results we get. Some of the research we conducted with a large number of global partners has an edge over the others because of massive learnings from the multidisciplinary scientists involved. For example, our genome sequencing work of 429 chickpea lines was a collaboration of 39 scientists from 21 research institutes across 45 countries. It tapped next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology to better understand the genetic architecture, centre of origin, migration route as well as genetic loci for agronomic traits in chickpea. This study1 with several brilliant minds from across the world offered much learning for me.

Chickpea crop improvement has been a key area of Varshney’s research.

There is a great sense of satisfaction when the upstream research we conduct delivers results in farmers’ fields in addition to advancing the cause of science for global good. As a genomics scientist, I provide research outputs for breeding programmes that develop improved crops.

ICRISAT’s collaborative work on genomics-assisted breeding helped develop and release the first set of products in 2019. There were three high yielding, wilt resistant varieties of chickpea2, 3 and two high-oleic varieties of groundnut4. The Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research also released a high-yielding chickpea variety5. The groundnut varieties were among the 17 biofortified crops dedicated to India on World Food Day 2020.

My efforts in genomics-assisted breeding will continue with an aim to accelerate the replacement of older crop varieties to help smallholding farmers improve their income and ensure better nutrition and health for the society.

(*Rajeev Varshney is Research Program Director, Genetic Gains and Director, Center of Excellence in Genomics & Systems Biology at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Hyderabad, India.)

Nature India Photo Contest 2020: Finalist #6

Here is finalist #6 in the Nature India Photo Contest 2020 themed ‘pandemic’:

Partha Paul, Kolkata, West Bengal

Photo Caption: Sampling immunity

“A health worker collects blood sample from a child in Kolkata, West Bengal as part of a sero survey to determine prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 in populations. In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, these surveys were conducted to determine what part of a population had developed antibodies. This was the first day of antibody tests in Kolkata’s Belgachia slum, one of the worst affected by COVID-19. This child, seen here with her mother, came from a ‘red zone’ where the government had enforced maximum containment measures.” — Partha Paul

Many congratulations Partha for your second entry in the top 10!

The Nature India editorial and design teams have chosen ten stunning finalists, that will be rolled out (in no particular order of merit) over the next few days. These entries have been judged for novelty, creativity, quality and print worthiness. Nature India’s final decision to chose the winner will be partly influenced by the engagement and reception these pictures receive here at the Indigenus blog, on Twitter and on Facebook. To give all finalists a fair chance, we will consider the social media engagement each picture gets only during the first seven days of its announcement. The final results will be announced sometime in early February 2021.

Watch this space as we announce the other finalists in the coming days. Like, share and comment on your favourite photos on Twitter and on Facebook with the hashtag #NatureIndphoto to make them win.

The winning pictures will get cash prizes worth $350, $250 and $200 respectively. The top 10 finalists will be featured here, on Nature India’s blog Indigenus and in our subsequent annual issue.

The winner and runners-up will also receive a copy of the Nature India Annual Volume 2020 and a bag of Nature Research goodies. Winning entries stand a chance of being featured on the cover of one of our forthcoming print publications.

Nature India Photo Contest 2020: Finalist #5

Rolling out finalist #5 in the Nature India Photo Contest 2020 themed ‘pandemic’:

Sourav Karmakar, Kolkata, West Bengal

Photo caption: Faithful fielder

“Before the COVID-19 pandemic, this old man walked in a group with other senior citizens at Lodhi Gardens in New Delhi, India. They followed a schedule – evening-walk, physical exercise, badminton and a chat session. In the new normal, most senior citizens are home-bound. This man found a new companion in his dog and tweaked his fitness schedule with the canine sports partner.” — Sourav Karmakar

Congratulations Sourav for getting a spot in the top 10 of the Nature India Photo Contest 2020!

The Nature India editorial and design teams have chosen ten stunning finalists, that will be rolled out (in no particular order of merit) over the next few days. These entries have been judged for novelty, creativity, quality and print worthiness. Nature India’s final decision to chose the winner will be partly influenced by the engagement and reception these pictures receive here at the Indigenus blog, on Twitter and on Facebook. To give all finalists a fair chance, we will consider the social media engagement each picture gets only during the first seven days of its announcement. The final results will be announced sometime in early February 2021.

Watch this space as we announce the other finalists in the coming days. Like, share and comment on your favourite photos on Twitter and on Facebook with the hashtag #NatureIndphoto to make them win.

The winning pictures will get cash prizes worth $350, $250 and $200 respectively. The top 10 finalists will be featured here, on Nature India’s blog Indigenus and in our subsequent annual issue.

The winner and runners-up will also receive a copy of the Nature India Annual Volume 2020 and a bag of Nature Research goodies. Winning entries stand a chance of being featured on the cover of one of our forthcoming print publications.

Nature India Photo Contest 2020: Finalist #4

Unveiling finalist #4 in the Nature India Photo Contest 2020 themed ‘pandemic’:

Kaushik Dutta, Kolkata, West Bengal

Photo caption: Personal protection

“This little boy, struggling to come to terms with life with a mask, seems to believe that his mother might protect him from all calamities, even an unseen virus. The healing and influencing power of mothers in protecting families has been at the forefront of many awareness campaigns and immunisation programmes during public health emergencies such as the COVID-19. Clicked at the Howrah station in West Bengal, India.” — Kaushik Dutta

Congratulations Kaushik for making it to the top 10 in the Nature India Photo Contest 2020!

The Nature India editorial and design teams have chosen ten stunning finalists, that will be rolled out (in no particular order of merit) over the next few days. These entries have been judged for novelty, creativity, quality and print worthiness. Nature India’s final decision to chose the winner will be partly influenced by the engagement and reception these pictures receive here at the Indigenus blog, on Twitter and on Facebook. To give all finalists a fair chance, we will consider the social media engagement each picture gets only during the first seven days of its announcement. The final results will be announced sometime in early February 2021.

Watch this space as we announce the other finalists in the coming days. Like, share and comment on your favourite photos on Twitter and on Facebook with the hashtag #NatureIndphoto to make them win.

The winning pictures will get cash prizes worth $350, $250 and $200 respectively. The top 10 finalists will be featured here, on Nature India’s blog Indigenus and in our subsequent annual issue.

The winner and runners-up will also receive a copy of the Nature India Annual Volume 2020 and a bag of Nature Research goodies. Winning entries stand a chance of being featured on the cover of one of our forthcoming print publications.

Nature India Photo Contest 2020: Finalist #3

With very similar entries, there are two ‘finalists’ number three in the Nature India Photo Contest 2020:

Partha Paul, Kolkata, West Bengal

Photo caption: New beginnings

“Newly married couple Avishek Bachhar (25) and Puspa Jana (22) leave the Siddeshwari temple in north Kolkata after seeking the goddess’s blessings. They tied the knot with only a handful of relatives due to strict restrictions on assembly of people during the COVID-19 pandemic. Marriages in India are generally grand events with hundreds of people participating. Despite the measures, West Bengal recorded over 5.5 lakh cases of infection and 9712 deaths in 2020.” — Partha Paul


Anindya Chattopadhyay, New Delhi

Photo caption: Present tense

“A little girl enjoys the attention of the newlyweds, as the bride steals a quiet moment with her groom during a ‘new normal’ wedding ceremony at Kirti Nagar in New Delhi. Despite the pandemic, thousands of weddings took place across India amidst strict restrictions and anxiety.” — Anindya Chattopadhyay


 

Congratulations Partha and Anindya for sharing the finalist number three slot in the Nature India Photo Contest 2020!

If you are rooting for one of these two pictures, you can make a mention of the picture caption or the name of the photographer in the comments here or on social media (Twitter, Facebook).

The Nature India editorial and design teams have chosen ten stunning finalists, that will be rolled out (in no particular order of merit) over the next few days. These entries have been judged for novelty, creativity, quality and print worthiness. Nature India’s final decision to chose the winner will be partly influenced by the engagement and reception these pictures receive here at the Indigenus blog, on Twitter and on Facebook. To give all finalists a fair chance, we will consider the social media engagement each picture gets only during the first seven days of its announcement. The final results will be announced sometime in early February 2021.

Watch this space as we announce the other finalists in the coming days. Like, share and comment on your favourite photos on Twitter and on Facebook with the hashtag #NatureIndphoto to make them win.

The winning pictures will get cash prizes worth $350, $250 and $200 respectively. The top 10 finalists will be featured here, on Nature India’s blog Indigenus and in our subsequent annual issue.

The winner and runners-up will also receive a copy of the Nature India Annual Volume 2020 and a bag of Nature Research goodies. Winning entries stand a chance of being featured on the cover of one of our forthcoming print publications.

Nature India Photo Contest 2020: Finalist #2

Announcing the second finalist in the Nature India Photo Contest 2020:

 Amitava Chandra, Kolkata, West Bengal

Photo caption: Immersive innovation

“The annual Durga Puja festivities end with the immersion of the gods’ idols in river Hooghly, a tributary of the Ganges. Every year thousands of people take part in the idol immersion processions. Following COVID-19 restrictions, the festival organising committees created temporary water bodies to ‘immerse’ the clay-made idols by dissolving them with high power water jets, like in this picture taken at the Tridhara Sanmilani Puja Pandal, Kolkata on 26 October 2020. The benefits were two-fold – no processions, and no pollution of the Ganges’ waters.” — Amitava Chandra

Congratulations Amitava for making it to top 10!

The Nature India editorial and design teams have chosen ten stunning finalists, that will be rolled out (in no particular order of merit) over the next few days. These entries have been judged for novelty, creativity, quality and print worthiness. Nature India’s final decision to chose the winner will be partly influenced by the engagement and reception these pictures receive here at the Indigenus blog, on Twitter and on Facebook. To give all finalists a fair chance, we will consider the social media engagement each picture gets only during the first seven days of its announcement. The final results will be announced sometime in early February 2021.

Watch this space as we announce the other finalists in the coming days. Like, share and comment on your favourite photos on Twitter and on Facebook with the hashtag #NatureIndphoto to make them win.

The winning pictures will get cash prizes worth $350, $250 and $200 respectively. The top 10 finalists will be featured here, on Nature India’s blog Indigenus and in our subsequent annual issue.

The winner and runners-up will also receive a copy of the Nature India Annual Volume 2020 and a bag of Nature Research goodies. Winning entries stand a chance of being featured on the cover of one of our forthcoming print publications.

Nature India Photo Contest 2020: Finalist #1

It’s time to roll out the shortlist of the Nature India Photo Contest 2020.

The 7th edition of our photo contest themed “pandemic” opened in December 2020 and has received some remarkable entries from around the world.

We invited entries that capture not just the hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic but also the hope of an infection-free future.

Nature India is covering various aspects of the pandemic since the first case of COVID-19 was detected in India. Our stories have taken a cross-cutting approach — going beyond hard core science into the socio-economic, cultural and psychological fall outs of the pandemic. As an extension of that coverage, it was only natural to consider “pandemic” as the theme for the annual photo contest.

Like always, entries came from a mix of amateur and professional photographers, scientists and non-scientists, mobile cameras and high-end DSLRs.

The Nature India editorial and design teams have chosen ten stunning finalists, that will be rolled out (in no particular order of merit) over the next few days. Nature India’s final decision to chose the winner will be partly influenced by the engagement and reception these pictures receive here at the Indigenus blog, on Twitter and on Facebook. To give all finalists a fair chance, we will consider the social media engagement each picture gets only during the first seven days of its announcement. The final results will be announced sometime in early February 2021.

So here’s finalist number one in the Nature India photo contest 2020:

Deepak Kumbhar, Kolhapur, Maharashtra, India.

Photo caption: Home-bound

“COVID-19 affected the mental health of millions of people worldwide. Children in India suffered loneliness due to long lockdowns. At an age when the outdoors and physical activity are necessary for their mental and physical growth, children stuck at home were glued to digital devices for learning and entertainment. This photo was taken in April 2020 during the lockdown in the small city of Kolhapur in western India. A boy is seen with a non-digital plaything – a carrom board – on the terrace of his home, but there’s no one to play with him.” — Deepak Kumbhar.

Congratulations Deepak for making it to top 10!

Watch this space as we announce the other finalists in the coming days. Like, share and comment on your favourite photos on Twitter and on Facebook with the hashtag #NatureIndphoto to make them win.

The winning pictures will get cash prizes worth $350, $250 and $200 respectively. The top 10 finalists will be featured here, on Nature India’s blog Indigenus and in our subsequent annual issue.

These entries have been judged for novelty, creativity, quality and print worthiness. The winner and runners-up will also receive a copy of the Nature India Annual Volume 2020 and a bag of Nature Research goodies. Winning entries stand a chance of being featured on the cover of one of our forthcoming print publications.

A conscience-stirring pandemic

Between treating patients and churning out a record number of scholarly publications, the COVID-19 pandemic has seen a productivity peak for many medical professionals. In this poignant essay, Debanjan Banerjee, a practicing psychiatrist at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru, talks about the many levels at which such hyperactivity affected professionals.

Debanjan Banerjee in his PPE.

Another ‘ahead of print’ issue was out. I was anxiously scanning it for my article. There it was! The next obvious thing to do would be to announce this exciting news on all possible social media channels, ‘humbly’ displaying my scientific and literary skills, proud of my name leading the decorated list of authors.

“One more,” I said, as I silently thanked the pandemic for turning an unusual year, clinically speaking, into an equally productive academic one. From the time COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, the rate at which I have churned scholarly articles is perhaps only second to the rate of the viral infection itself. Adding my two cents to the academic discourse around mental health issues stemming from COVID-19, I have rightfully earned my share of the pandemic pie as a young researcher.

With endless concepts and theories, innumerable correlations and associations, COVID-19 statistics have piled up faster than researchers can digest. As a medical professional, I witnessed an unprecedented quest to learn, write, explore and get to the bottom of every possible angle related to the pandemic. Specialties and duties have blurred: even as a psychiatrist, I speak about the viral structure, my pathologist friend comments on the behavioral effects of the virus, while virologists debate on treatment protocols. We are all involved in COVID-duty. COVID-19 has been a great leveler: first, it renamed physicians and healthcare workers as “front-liners” imposing an enhanced sense of responsibility as well as perceived stigma about them; second, it created almost universal expertise about the virus.

Information became an essential commodity. Almost everyone knew something about the outbreak, and none wanted to miss the chance to display that knowledge. Definitely not me, the pandemic added publications to my credit and I was secretly enjoying the closure of out-patient departments.

Busy in such self-obsessive ruminations that stemmed from the freshly minted publication, I didn’t hear my pager ring twice, then thrice. Finally, an irritated nurse in the emergency room mumbled something that sounded like “clinical duties first priority”. Reluctantly, I dragged myself out of my ‘ahead of print wonderland’, to hear some shocking news that made me dash to the COVID-designated ward. I barely had time to slip into the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as I digested the information – a famous business tycoon’s son had succumbed to the infection. Management of such ‘high profile’ cases is always a nuisance, and throughout my graduation years, I wished we had a chapter dedicated in the medical curriculum to this lesser discussed challenge of medical practice. I marched into the ward like an astronaut, media persons waiting outside to be briefed.

COVID-19 deaths have extra formalities to take care of. I met my masked and suited colleagues, each clumsy in their ‘gas chambers’, and visibly edgy as the businessman’s family and followers waited outside. I was the treating resident in charge of the patient the week before, and hence my presence was necessary for the last ‘medical rites’. India’s death toll had just crossed one lakh, and I was trying to guess what number would be assigned to this death, all the while impatient to get back to my just published paper.

As the clinical obligations lingered, I looked at the dead body of the cheerful young man with whom I had discussed cricket, gardening and romantic post-recovery surprise plans for his fiancée. Death is neither uncomfortable nor strange for my profession but I suddenly shuddered at its uncertain nature. When we heralded 2020 amid celebrations, did we know that more than two million of us would not see another new year?

As a psychiatrist, communicating with patients and their families is a large part of my job. I prepared for the ensuing tough dialogue with the bereaved family. The father and the uncle were waiting outside the ward, surrounded by family members in a distinct circle, all in PPE, masks and gloves. For a second, I mistook them for physicians. Then I realised that the circle was to ensure social distancing from potential infection carriers like me.

An elaborately rehearsed explanation of the death has always fallen short during such conversations. In what seemed like a very lengthy discussion, the family wanted to know of precautions for future (do we need to fumigate the house?), pondered over possible instances of transmission by their now dead kin, and the statistical chances of them being infected already. The concerns seemed a bit illogical to me considering a paid caregiver was in charge all this while. As a matter of courtesy, I asked if they wanted to have a last glance at their family member through the COVID-ICU window. They seemed to tighten the circle and left abruptly saying the cremation formalities would be handled by a separate team. I felt sorry for the young man, who was accorded a celebrity status in the hospital till yesterday. His corpse had no such privilege.

I was going back into the ward when someone tugged at my PPE. A boy, maybe all of five, in a tattered T-shirt and barely anything below the waist, was standing there, right next to the infectious diseases ward without a mask or gloves! Before I could react, a hospital guard came running, apologising for the transgression, “Sorry Sir, I tried my best, this fellow just ran past me”. Cautious of guarding the child from any possible infection from my PPE, I stepped back, crouched and asked him what he wanted. He was sniffling and mumbled something in the local language pointing towards the general ward. He had come looking for his father, another COVID-19 fatality. He lived in the slum next to the hospital. The motherless child was not allowed to stay with his father and his attempt to bypass the hospital guards succeeded only today, when it was too late. I explained to him that it was risky being near the COVID-19 ward without protective gear. He smiled, his teeth darker than his skin, and unfolded his little hands to show a facemask darkened with days of use, strings torn and numerous tiny holes on one side. He had exchanged his silver bracelet with a local vendor for this mask and taken it to a nearby temple for prayers. He believed it would protect his father from the killer virus.

I don’t know how the guards managed to take care of the child. I had to leave, breathless and feeling sick. Together, the choke of the PPE, a distended bladder, blurred vision and a burdened conscience had taken a heavy toll on me.

Half an hour later, I managed to get back from the reflective phase into being the stoic physician, the iron-willed ‘front-liner’ who has seen it all. Proud of my unceasing contribution to pandemic literature, I started re-reading with content my latest title: “COVID-19: The Great Equalizer”.

(Debanjan Banerjee can be reached at Dr.Djan88@gmail.com.)

Nature India spotlights Odisha

A state known for its heritage, culture and disaster management, and as an emerging hub of scholarship and research, Odisha is making its mark. This special issue captures the aspirations of and challenges for the eastern Indian state in becoming the next national science hub.

Odisha is home to a number of large national institutes and laboratories – the Indian Institute of Technology, the Institute of Life Sciences, the Institute of Minerals and Material Technology, the Regional Medical Research Centre, the National Institute of Science Education and Research, National Rice Research Institute, the Central Institute of Freshwater Aquaculture and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. The state government-run Utkal University and the Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology in capital Bhubaneswar add to its scholarly might. Private education conglomerates such as the Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology University and the L V Prasad Eye Institute are helping produce a sizeable scientific workforce.

The entrepreneurship and innovation scene is warming up with a number of technology business incubators setting up shop in the state. A biotechnology cluster is also on the cards. The Odisha special issue takes a close look at this growth of innovation and technology in the state’s science.

Odisha’s 460km coastline and a hot, humid agro-climate, have endowed it with rich fisheries and paddy cultivation resources. The state’s scientific legacy in both aquaculture and rice research have benefitted from these. We examine the results of years of rice and fish breeding that Odisha has gifted to the world. The state’s proximity to the Bay of Bengal and high summer temperatures have also brought severe cyclones, floods and heat waves. We investigate how Odisha is setting an example in using science and technology to cope with such extreme weather phenomena.

Odisha’s rich culture and history draws international attention. Its many temples, monuments, ancient palm leaf manuscripts, paintings, and excavations are keenly researched by archaeologists, leading to innovative conservation methods to preserve Odisha’s past.

We analyse the traditional and modern methods being deployed by scientists, and focus on another rich historical source – shipwrecks – revealing fascinating stories of historic naval wars off the coast of Odisha.

India’s science and technology is well entrenched in metro areas, with institute clusters like those in Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Pune, the national capital region of Delhi, and Kolkata. Smaller, second-tier cities like Bhubaneswar are gearing up to the cluster approach, and are poised to contribute to the research and innovation scene. The Odisha special issue is an attempt to shine a light on one such state. In the near future, Nature India’s regional spotlights will chronicle more such emerging hubs of science in the country.

The Nature India special issue on Odisha is free to download here.

NI Special Issue on COVID-19 Engineering Solutions is out

Cover illustration: Youssef A Khalil

Very early on it became clear that the COVID-19 pandemic was not just a challenge for scientists and medical professionals. Almost a year into the coronavirus’s rampage across the world, there’s no doubt about the long-term impact that SARS-CoV-2 will continue to have on every facet of human life — from healthcare to education, social interaction, businesses, environmental concerns, and political processes.

India’s large population, governance, and creaky healthcare infrastructure have traditionally hampered the quick and smooth roll out of public health interventions. With this pandemic, it wasn’t any different. Nature India covered the evolution of the crisis from several angles, going beyond the strict remit of science. Our coverage embraced a new normal in these unprece­dented times. We looked at the physical and biological aspects of the virus extensively, and also published stories of how India, with its 1.2 billion-strong population, was responding to the health emergency. This resulted in Nature India’s first special issue on the COVID-19 crisis, published in June 2020.

Coping with a major public health catastrophe lies not just in vaccines and treatments, but also technologies that the world’s scientists quickly geared up to invent or repurpose. Within months of the novel coronavirus’ spread we saw the development of new ventilators, rapid antigen tests, personal protection equipment, and sanitization apparatus.

Nature India’s second COVID-19 special, focuses on such engineering and technology solu­tions being tested and deployed. We take a look at front-runners in nanomaterial design that are helping advanced antiviral and antibacterial therapies; the state-of-the-art in critical care ventilators and how in-silico docking studies are bringing new drug molecules.

The issue presents a selection of commentaries published in various Nature research journals highlighting the use of artificial intelligence tools and machine learning in scaling approaches for data, model and code sharing, and in adapting results to local conditions. Nanotechnology is offering hope in antimicrobial and antiviral formulations, and highly sensitive biosensors and detection platforms.

We ask whether nanoscientists can take better advantage of technology and automation in their laboratories to reveal new information about COVID-19. A host of reverse-engineered commercial medical equipment and devices for healthcare workers have flooded the market. While these ‘low-tech’ solutions are welcome for resource poor countries such as India, we argue that for real impact, they must affiliate to approved designs. We also shine a light on pandemic-fighting photonics tools (X-ray imaging and ultraviolet sterilization), the strengths and ethical questions around smartphone surveillance of the pandemic, and discuss why it is important for governments to implement public health measures aided by technology.

At the end of a trying year, we hope these new perspectives bring additional hope in efforts to tame the novel coronavirus.

The Nature India COVID-19 Engineering Solutions special issue is free to download here.