Bangladeshi researchers published more than 11,000 scientific publications, mostly articles in international journals with impact factor, last year, which was third among South Asian countries.
Although the number was 2,000 more than in 2020, experts believe that this is not enough.
The country's neighbours -- India (222,849 publications) and Pakistan (35,663 publications) -- have contributed much more, despite near similar positions in economic and social indicators.
According to the online magazine Scientific Bangladesh's annual report on scientific documents, the scholars of the country published 11,477 articles and other publications in 159 peer-reviewed and impact factor journals and Proceedings till 6 January.
In the previous year, the number was 9,116, while in 2019, it was 8,301 documents.
The documents that were counted in the report apart from articles are: conference papers, reviews, book chapters, letters, errata, notes, editorials, data papers, books, short surveys, and others.
Prof Dr M Shamsher Ali, former president of Bangladesh Academy of Science, told The Business Standard, "The current publication number is not enough in Bangladesh; it is extremely inadequate. It's because of the poor research budget in universities. Our higher education institutions have become teaching institutes only."
He suggested identifying good researchers to increase publications.
According to the 2021 annual report of the University Grants Commission (UGC), 125 public and private universities in the country altogether spent only Tk153 crore – an average of Tk1.22 crore each – on research activities in 2019, which is only 1% of their total expenditure.
More strikingly, privately-run BRAC University's spending on research in 2019 was Tk37.9 crores, which was five crores more than the total spent on research by 10 public universities combined in the same year.
Meanwhile, available data shows that South Asian countries registered a significant growth in research publications over the last five years. From 2016 to 2021, Nepal and Sri Lanka's contribution grew by 20 times and 16.5 times, respectively, while Maldives' research publications increased by 30 times.
Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Pakistan's contribution grew by 2 times only.
Academics and experts maintain that the low amount of money spent on research in the country's universities had resulted in the inadequate research work.
Dr Saleh Hasan Naqib, a veteran scientist and professor of Physics at Rajshahi University, told TBS, "A faculty should publish at least one or two quality research publications in a year. But on average, we cannot do so.
"There is a policy problem as we are not appointing quality graduates as teachers. Many appointments are questionable due to corruption. Besides, a teacher can be promoted easily without publications."
For painting the picture of the research publication scenario in the country, Scientific Bangladesh gleaned their data from the citation and abstract based database Scopus, which includes peer-reviewed literature, as well as scientific journals, books and conference proceedings.
The top seven journals which published the highest number of articles by Bangladeshi researchers are: Heliyon, Plos One, Sustainability Switzerland, Scientific Reports, IEEE Access, Environmental Science and Pollution Research, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
According to Resurchify, an information portal, the impact factor of the Heliyon is 2.85.
The impact factor, also known as Journal Impact Factor (JIF), is a metric used to evaluate the relative importance of a journal. It is determined by calculating the average number of citations received by selected articles in that journal within the last few years.
Where Bangladesh stands
According to the Scopus database, the top three subject areas of publication for Bangladeshis are engineering (10.7%), medicine (10.4%), and computer science (9.6%).
There was also a big increase in environmental sciences publications in 2021, which made it the fourth-largest area surpassing agriculture and biological sciences.
Among both university and research organisations, Dhaka University (DU) retained the top position with 1,246 publications, 500 more than last year.
Bangladesh University of Science and Technology (BUET) slipped to third position with 693 publications, while Rajshahi University secured the second position.
Jahangirnagar University secured fourth position, while the private North South University placed 5th, climbing two rungs from 2020.
Dr Monir Uddin Ahmed, editor of Scientific Bangladesh, told TBS, "Using the number of articles per faculty, we can better understand the performance of any university. In this case, Mawlana Bhashani Science and Technology University (1.42 articles per faculty) is at the top, followed by Jessore University of Science and Technology (1.20) and BUET (1.04).
"From the data of articles per faculty which is less than 1 for most universities, and the number of corresponding authors [only 1/4 articles are originating from the institutes' own research], the scenario is far from satisfactory though publication number is increasing," he added.
Top Bangladeshi researchers
According to the Scopus database, Dr Talha Bin Emran, assistant professor of the pharmacy department at BGC Trust University, obtained the top position last year with 92 publications.
Dr Tahmeed Ahmed, executive director of Icddr,b and Dr Akbar Hossain, principal scientist, Bangladesh Wheat and Maize Research Institute, secured the 2nd position jointly last year with 73 articles.
Dr Abu Reza Md Towfiqul Islam, associate professor of disaster management at the Begum Rokeya University and Md Sahab Uddin, executive director of Pharmakon Neuroscience Research Network, jointly secured 4th position with 65 articles, according to the data available.