Role of Publishers in Nation Building

Nitasha Devasar is two-term President, Association of Publishers in India, the recognized trade body for international publishers in India. Her edited book on Indian publishing, Publishers on Publishing: Inside India's Book Business (2019) provides a panoramic view of the industry. She is Guest Editor of Looking Back, Looking Forward: 75-years of Indian Publishing (2022), a special double-issue of Logos, Journal of the World Publishing Community, published by Brill.

What makes a Nation?
The essence of a nation is its people and in India, we are blessed with plenty. Our population growth is not slated to decline till 2050. With both an aging and a youthful population in our midst, the advancement and preservation of knowledge (and culture) is a core imperative in progressing the nation. Academic, and indeed all forms of Publishing will increasingly play a vital role in our nation of the future.

The effects of the pandemic and climate change are being felt strongly the world over, and the role of sound science and scientific research in addressing these and other real-world problems is tangible and proven over the last few years. The rapid advancement in technology and particularly the strides in AI, and further in augmented and generative tools, are making many routine content and quality-related activities more efficient and less labour and time intensive. If you marry AI with Big Data, the vast source of information collected from various sources, content creation goes to a whole different level as AI algorithms can analyze vast amounts of data and generate content independently.

Contrary to current fears, these trends will only increase the value of human creativity, ethical principles, actions and legislations to protect data and personal privacy and freedom. All these activities require human intelligence and perspectives. There is also a need for enhancing skill sets, analytical and emotional tools as well as ethical and moral standards for human interface with technology to advance both humanity and nation-building. In this education plays a vital role.

The rapid advancement in technology and particularly the strides in AI, and further in augmented and generative tools, are making many routine content and quality-related activities more efficient and less labour and time intensive.

Education as a Driver in Nation-building
Various projections suggest that India is poised to achieve Developed Country Status over the next twenty-five years growing its per capita income to 13-times the current levels. A major factor in this will be a dynamic and quality-driven education system with a focus on skills, employability and resilience. Making higher education equitable and accessible has always been a priority in India. The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 with its emphasis on flexibility, curriculum and certifications choices, and research innovation via international collaborations beyond academia has all the elements to build a future-relevant education system. Alongside the ecosystem of private technical and liberal arts institutions, EdTech infrastructure and global collaborations for anytime, anywhere, continuous learning is set to push the frontiers of learning and skilling further.

There are however significant challenges which if not addressed can become blockers for the vision and promise of the NEP 2020. The two most significant ones are:

• Physical and digital piracy and relatedly, copyright infringements, fueled by gaps in both awareness and lax enforcement. This is increasingly impacting quality standards and hence credibility of India’s research output and the degrees and certifications provided via our higher education system.

• Choosing quantity over quality in acquiring and publishing educational materials and research in many institutions. A trend purportedly pushed by budgetary constraints, but driven, in reality, by lack of awareness on part of learners, complexities in the purchasing and publishing ecosystems and the unchecked proliferation of poor-quality and heavily discounted content and predatory publishing practices.

The good news is that awareness is growing, and these problems are containable. A shift in focus to outcome-based learning that drives skilling and employability rather than collecting degrees and certifications alone, is an excellent starting point. As the premium on individual employability and institutional ranking increases, the hope is that these trends will begin to fade, at least in pockets, in the years to come.

"Physical and digital piracy and relatedly, copyright infringements, fueled by gaps in both awareness and lax enforcement."

Publishers as Enablers in Nation-building
As these trends coalesce and gain momentum Publishers can and must play a central role to ensure quality and impact of education and research in academia and beyond. Some actions are ongoing and others growing parts of the publishing universe that will aid the building of a knowledge nation of the future. These include:

• Acting as filters and framers in the universe of growing content and information. Academic publishers are investing in tools and technologies to ensure the veracity and relevance of information.

• Large publishers also invest consistently in technology for digital transformation and accessibility of content, written, audio and video, for personalized and adaptive learning. Going further they are increasingly supporting the creation of content in local languages and formats to suit individual preferences and style, making learning accessible and inclusive.

• By growing their open access offerings international publishers are paving the way for researchers from India and other developing countries to both access and outreach research output to a global audience. Open access platforms and collaborative tools are lowering the barriers to accessing the latest scientific knowledge, enabling progress.

• By supporting and creating professional networks around research themes or relevant subjects they enable Indian researchers to gain access to the best minds in their disciplines and get exposure to international best practices.

• By protecting copyright of authors and writers they publish, and by creating awareness and promoting best practices within the education and research ecosystem via trainings and distribution of free resources to aid individual learners, publishers are contributing to building quality into our research ecosystem.

For a nation to thrive, its people need to be socially and economically stable. Publishers, through their efforts to support individual learners and institutions to focus on sound science and uphold ethical and moral standards for research, play a vital role.

Increasingly, the currency of learning is Services and Outcomes as it once was Products and Degrees. Services are about value, experiences and results for consumers, be they students, researchers or professionals. Outcomes are about employability and continued relevance in the job market. As Albert Einstein said, ‘All that is valuable in human society depends on the opportunity for development accorded the individual.’ The role of publishing and publishers in enabling person and national growth can be significant. This is a call to arms for those providing learning services and funding for higher education and technical training. These include governments, corporates, tech companies and publishers who need to come together to provide quality, world-class and inclusive learning outcomes to build the nation @2047. This will collectively ensure the wellbeing and growth of its people, in turn taking the nation to greater heights.