Wednesday, December 11, 2019

What is research? The literal meaning is that one searches for something that is already been searched by some one else. But the real meaning is that you do something which is original or contributes to or enhances the existing knowledge. There is continuing effort in this direction allover the world in all fields of human activity and there is thus an explosion of knowledge happening almost daily.
Most of this kind of work is from western world predominantly from europe and USA and lately from China.
Despite having a surfeit of technically qualified men and women in our country our research output is abysmally low in comparison. Often we blame the inadequacy of resources,equipment, money and discordance between industry,universities and the government. While all this being true to some extent, there are some, more valid causes for the lack of research. The most significant one is I feel is the hierarchical structure of our institutions. Let us take for example a university professor who has 50 undergrads and ten post grads under him and five other teachers working with him.From where the research ideas arise? From the 60 students or from the 6 faculty?Ideally the ideas should be from the students and may be some extent from the faculty. The role of the faculty should be to to guide the student in the research methodology and to take the idea forward to wards the logical end. That is publication.
For any idea to come up one must have an inquisitive mind. This is natural when one is young and education is to encourage the growth of this. Unfortunately in our institutions lot of importance is given to accumulation of already known facts which is tested at the end of the year by an examination. As the numbers are large the interaction between the teacher and the taught is also not intense. This is the main reason why indian students do so well when they go to USA or Europe where the student teacher interaction is better and the student becomes a quality researcher as he is encouraged to develop an inquisitive mind which has laid dormant when he was here in India.
As we have seen, what ever quality research papers that have an Indian origin have come from few institutions who do not have this hierarchical structure and where there is more student guide interaction.
When a young man/woman is given the freedom to think and allowed to freely interact with others, be it faculty or seniors in an informal group many ideas will emerge. So there should be an inquisitive mind, an atmosphere and suitable environment for any research ideas to emerge/sprout.

Let me illustrate with a real life example.

There are a group of young doctors headed by another not so young doctor. I closely interact with them on a day to day and on need based occasions. No harm in naming them, The young ones are Dr Swathy and Dr Akshay, the not so young is Dr Ramakrishna Prasad and the oldie in the group is yours truly.

Couple of days ago four of us met. We were discussing B12 deficiency in diabetics who are on Metformin. The question that the inquisitive minds wanted an answer was whether it is due to combination of diabetes and metformin or only metformin? Do those diabetics who are not on metformin also prone to B12 deficiency? If so when combined with metformin the deficiency becomes worse? All these were research questions which needed to be found out and we are at it.
Another question that was posed was why so many people develop B12 deficiency? Even amongst non vegetarians. The only answer I could give is that these are people who eat meat occasionally and are there fore de facto vegetarians. Is there any other reason? Are they absorbing the vitamin poorly?
Then came the best route of administration. Oral or in the injection form. I said the injection form. She asked why? I said in my experience there is quicker absorption and better results. Is there a proof that B12 given orally is less effective? I didn't have a proven answer. Another research idea

By the above example one can realise how effective this method of interaction between interested groups that will result in emergence of research ideas.

Following is the comment from Akshay

Akshay S Dinesh

10:58 AM (8 hours ago)
The hierarchical nature of research in institutes has a lot to do with the hierarchical nature of funding and more importantly passion. If we want to increase India's research throughput it is not just guidance on research that we'll have to give students, but also guidance on life in general. Our education systems may truly have to fulfill Vivekananda's words:

Education is not the amount of information that we put into your brain and runs riot there, undigested, all your life. We must have life building, man making, character making assimilation of ideas. If you have assimilated five ideas and made them your life and character, you have more education than any man who has got by heart a whole library...

I suppose when people think about "purpose" of life and "meaning" of life, that is when they will have enough passion to do the hard work that research takes. When people are worried about "settling" in life, that's when the problems start creeping in.


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