This is a very small community. So small that members of this community know each other by the names of research papers published by them.
Academic research is both means and end in itself. It thrives on citations and research gaps. Here the pursuit is to make incremental addition (to put in modest terms) to the existing body of knowledge. What do these researchers want? Fame? No. Money? No. Awards? Not really. Then what?
A curious academic researcher always aspires to ‘contribute’. So, what is this contribution all about?
Well, with my limited exposure to some top class academicians from India and abroad (most of whom I have met and heard at ‘good’ conferences), I feel that their urge to contribute something is actually their urge to make use of their resources and capabilities. They want to leave behind a tangible body of work as a legacy for future generations. They are not driven by short-term benefits like ‘cash’ or ‘credits’. They are not seeking brownie points to impress fellow academicians. All they want to experience is the joy of converting a ‘research question’ into actionable ‘output’.
Most Indian academicians find it difficult to pursue this track. One because the academic environment is not very conducive for faculties who wish to take this path. Two, it’s also due of lack of awareness about steps involved in becoming a truly accomplished academic researcher. It’s a long, tedious and non-glamourous journey filled with failures and disappointments. It needs proper training. It needs mentoring and induction by members groomed inside that ‘small circle’. A-Star (A*) and A-Category papers are not about intellectual prowess. To me, beyond aptitude, those journals expect people to master the art of gracefully getting-up after every single fall. Every successful paper is a story of men and women for whom learning is a way of life. Many of us fail to read those stories between the lines of published papers.
Many Indian schools have started recruiting some of these top class researchers right after their top school PhD in order to create the right ecosystem for research in India. Many young researchers have started publishing high quality ‘impactful’ works. Right minds are finding the right places. But the best days for these folks are yet to come. Till then a few good men will continue to apply for doctoral programs outside India in search of excellence.