Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Blogger's Desk #5- Alarming difficulties for Research(er's) in India

Greetings

In the light of recent progress and attitude of the governing bodies to research and researcher’s in the country, the situation has been described as “degrading”. The issue of “cost of science research” in India is being discussed at great lengths in the columns of prestigious journals, newspapers and scientific talks. I have previously openly written about the problems and concerns (Link). The letter met with a lot of nods, but there seems to be no response to it. 

There appears to be a problem in the way research system is organized. I conducted a small survey recently. The inferences that I could draw was sufficiently enlightening. The most outstanding of the results was, research was only as much important as getting a couple of publications and having a degree which was important for promotions in job. To surprise, research in itself was not a standalone career option, at least in the community I surveyed. Bottom-line, “Just as any other career, job satisfaction and financial stability forms the basis for choosing a profession”. Evidently current scenario is not fertile enough.

I understand that most of the PhD aspirants (including me) are in an age group, where the decision to pursue a doctorate has to be balanced with financial stability. Unlike any other stream, science demands extreme hours of work to achieve a little progress, or sometimes as the luck may have it. This forms the basis of stipend. A form of financial security to the most eligible students who will power the future of countries intellect strength. However, the recent turn of events doesn’t reflect this mission. I communicated to may students who are in research field. The most prominent problem expressed was the money for research and researcher.

Surveys formal and informal have projected 50% of students (on an average) clearing fellowship exams don’t make use of them, rather use it as a marker of their efficiency to go abroad where they expect the land to be more welcoming for research. Though the HRD ministry is currently throwing in lot of hopes to reform, there seems to be nothing emerging from the whole process of researcher’s holding the banners at the cost of time lost to do research. Does a researcher have to go through hunger strike process to get his dues cleared. The whole process was not fruitful anyways. At least not till now (Link).

India contributes to a significantly large chunk of research literature from Asian region, in terms of number of articles. Paradoxically, the rating in terms of global scenario is heavily bleak. Criticism has been that despite the number, the quality and originality of papers seems to be “not enough”. Harsh it may seem, but currently the scenario of research(er’s), is not cooperative and friendly, a time which I believe will pass soon.

In an attempt to gain wide opinion, I wrote to people who blog and are in research to give a valid opinion. I mailed everyone the same questions.

1. As a researcher, what would you be expecting from agencies that provide with JRF position (funding and other matters)
2. Do you think the quality of science is being damaged by the current system of doing research in country.

Some cared to reply. Almost unanimously the first question was answered with the same theme "no money". The second question met with different answer's such as institute is not supportive of research, problems with mentors, conflict of interest with other senior researcher's etc. Of all I found two replies to worth posting straight out.

Kanmani Replies,

1. I expect to have my pocket full for house rent, food and basic necessities. Also I should be able to support my family, a little. With all the financial problems, one cannot focus on research. I would need enough fund for my enzymes, Antibodies, chemicals, sequencing and all the costly experiments.

2. Sad, but true, for the sake of publishing, people do manipulate their results, in the way they want it to be. "Put some crap, fill pages and complete your thesis" mindset.

Saumyadip Replies,

1. Firstly from the funding agencies I cordially accept that fund raising among students had been an important factor since students need loads of funds to carry forward their research in their own disciplines. I quite have no much further expectations from funding agencies.

2. Secondly, I must not say that current research has been deteriorated in our country, rather there is lack of expression of research to the readers who doesn't know what we do. I feel also that outside research projects have much practical importance than what we do. I must not say that only for funding problems we are not able to carry forward our research but rather we can do better research with less funds too. I want to add one important point if you have noticed, our research is never expressed to the people outside. Like for abroad research institutes and universities have their blogs and press release for the research they carry out. But there aren't any in our country's university websites.

Further Reading:

1. Indian research scholars renew pay hike protests. Link
2. India’s scientific literature count highest in central and south Asia. Link
3. India hikes research fellowships. Link

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