‘Research is an extremely expensive proposition’ – Professor Raghu Raman

FICCI panel discussion on Scholarly and Scientific Publishing

(From L-R): Prashant Mishra, managing director – India & South Asia, BMJ; Remya Haridasan, Scientist D, Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India; Ajit Sharma, managing director – India and South Asia, Royal Society of Chemistry; and Professor Raghu Raman, dean, Amrita School of Business, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham. Photo IPP

As part of its PubliCon 2023 conference, industry body FICCI organized a panel discussion on ‘Role of Scholarly and Scientific Publishing in India’s Global Research Output’ at its premises in New Delhi on 8 August 2023. Remya Haridasan, Scientist D, Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India, was the moderator of the discussion.

Prashant Mishra, managing director – India & South Asia, BMJ, shared a study conducted over a 10-year period. It says the world’s top 10 institutions contribute the most to medical and clinical research. Four Indian colleges feature in the top 10. These include AIIMS and Christian Medical College, Vellore. India has 630 medical colleges, 50-54% of which didn’t publish any paper. The National Medical Council has now made it mandatory for every PG student to submit a research paper before sitting for the exam. It is also mandatory for the faculty to publish at least two papers. “The students need to understand the nuances of research and ask the right question,” he said.

Mishra said they have introduced a program called ‘research to publication’ in collaboration with the University of California to understand the nuances of research, and help researchers write and publish it.

Up the value chain, there is a need to conduct a number of medical writing workshops across the country while down the value chain, the government and the industry need to allot funds to research activity, he said. Funding agencies need to ask about the real-world impact of research in terms of policymaking, medical guidelines, clinical research support tools, and societal benefits. The Impact Analysis tool tells you about the impact of your medical research, he explained.

The publisher is the keeper of the information and keeps a record of the research, said Ajit Sharma, managing director – India and South Asia, Royal Society of Chemistry. The publishers have a huge responsibility to provide a huge amount of data in the form of books, journals, and databases so that future generations can learn and build upon it.

Professor Raghu Raman, dean, Amrita School of Business, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, said India is the eighth largest producer of scientific output. There is a tremendous opportunity for India to scale well in terms of research that aligns with societal impact. The societal goals for research should be hunger, poverty and gender equality, he said.

The National Research Foundation Bill hopes to herald a new era in research funding in India. It also aims to integrate the research and education ecosystems in the country, Haridasan said. “With the bill, there will be a huge boost in research funding and take research to the higher education institutions of the country, where research culture is completely lacking.”

Mishra talked about the National Research Foundation Bill that was recently passed in Lok Sabha. It is set to build a Rs 50,000 crore block fund with Rs 10,000 crore from the government, Rs 4,000 crore from the science engineering research board, and Rs 36,000 crore from BCSR funds from the corporate side. It aims to bring a public-private partnership in the research domain with the corporates being the direct beneficiaries of the research. The bill will provide a big boost to research funding and take research to higher education where research is lacking. Both basic research and transnational research will benefit from this. The government has ensured that the funds reach the last mile where not enough research was being carried out, he said.

Mishra said institutions should focus on procuring resources for their libraries. Publishers have a multi-dimensional role to play in how to make the research more accessible and affordable without compromising on quality. “We need to teach research to the researcher community in order to learn its nuances. We need to build more capacity on the research side,” he said, adding that publishers, editors, and peer-reviewers need to train them to write well.

Haridasan said the government ends up paying for the same thing multiple times and we should adopt the ‘One Nation One Subscription’ model to bring subscriptions to the national umbrella of combined subscriptions. ‘One Nation One Subscription’ is also being seen as one of the instruments for achieving the goals of the National Research Foundation Bill.

Raman said research is an extremely expensive proposition. The centralized approach in the form of the bill is a great step to trickle down to small institutions but where do private universities go?, he asked.

The cost factor in publishing research definitely needs to go down, Sharma said. “We cannot hound the author for doing great research. The appropriate price point for the UK or the US may not be the appropriate price point for India.”

Mishra quoted a paper that says 50% of research done in India doesn’t actually get published due to a number of factors, including researcher not coming forward, research not being complete or cohesive and/or research methodology not followed. “We need to understand the expectations of global organizations in research,” he said.

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