Year : 2020  |  Volume : 62  |  Issue : 6  |  Page : 615--616

Psychiatry research in India: Closing the research gap


Om Prakash Singh 
 Professor of Psychiatry, WBMES; Consultant Psychiatrist, AMRI Hospitals, Kolkata, West Bengal, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Om Prakash Singh
AA 304, Ashabari Apartments, O/31, Baishnabghata, Patuli Township, Kolkata - 700 094, West Bengal
India




How to cite this article:
Singh OP. Psychiatry research in India: Closing the research gap.Indian J Psychiatry 2020;62:615-616


How to cite this URL:
Singh OP. Psychiatry research in India: Closing the research gap. Indian J Psychiatry [serial online] 2020 [cited 2021 Jan 28 ];62:615-616
Available from: https://www.indianjpsychiatry.org/text.asp?2020/62/6/615/303157


Full Text



Research is an important aspect of the growth and development of medical science. Research in India in general and medical research in particular is always being criticized for lack of innovation and originality required for the delivery of health services suitable to Indian conditions. Even the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) which is a centrally funded frontier organization for conducting medical research couldn't avert criticism. It has been criticized heavily for not producing quality research papers which are pioneering, ground breaking, or pragmatic solutions for health issues plaguing India. In the words of a leading daily,

The ICMR could not even list one practical application of its hundreds of research papers published in various national and international research journals which helped cure any disease, or diagnose it with better accuracy or in less time, or even one new basic, applied or clinical research or innovation that opened a new frontier of scientific knowledge.[1]

This clearly indicates that the health research output of ICMR is not up to the mark and is not commensurate with the magnitude of the disease burden in India. According to the 12th Plan Report, the country contributes to a fifth of the world's share of diseases. The research conducted elsewhere may not be generalized to the Indian population owing to differences in biology, health-care systems, health practices, culture, and socioeconomic standards. Questions which are pertinent and specific to the Indian context may not be answered and will remain understudied. One of the vital elements in improving this situation is the need for relevant research base that would equip policymakers to take informed health policy decisions.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare in the 100th report on Demand for Grants (2017–2018) of the Department of Health Research observed that “the biomedical research output needs to be augmented substantially to cater to the health challenges faced by the country.”[1]

Among the various reasons, lack of fund, infrastructure, and resources is the prime cause which is glaringly evident from the inadequate budget allocation for biomedical research. While ICMR has a budget of 232 million dollars per year on health research, it is zilch in comparison to the annual budget expenditure of the National Institute of Health, USA, on biomedical research which is 32 billion dollars.

The lacuna of quality research is not merely due to lack of funds. There are other important issues which need to be considered and sorted out to end the status quo. Some of the factors which need our immediate attention are:

Lack of research training and teachingImproper allocation of research facilitiesLack of information about research work happening globallyLack of promotion, motivation, commitment, and passion in the field of researchClinicians being overburdened with patientsLack of collaboration between medical colleges and established research institutesLack of continuity of research in successive batches of postgraduate (PG) students, leading to wastage of previous research and resourcesDifficulty in the application of basic biomedical research into pragmatic intervention solutions due to lack of interdisciplinary technological support/collaboration between basic scientists, clinicians, and technological experts.

Majority of the biomedical research in India are conducted in medical institutions. The majority of these are done as thesis submission for fulfillment of the requirement of PG degree. From 2015 onward, publication of papers had been made an obligatory requirement for promotion of faculty to higher posts. Although it offered a unique opportunity for training of residents and stimulus for research, it failed to translate into production of quality research work as thesis was limited by time and it had to be done with other clinical and academic duties.

While the top four medical colleges, namely AIIMS, New Delhi; PGIMER, Chandigarh; CMC, Vellore; and SGIMS, Lucknow are among the top ten medical institutions in terms of publication in peer-reviewed journals, around 332 (57.3%) medical colleges have no research paper published in a decade between 2004 and 2014.[2]

The research in psychiatry is realistically dominated by major research institutes which are doing commendable work, but there is a substantial lack of contemporary research originating from other centers. Dr. Chittaranjan Andrade (NIMHANS, Bengaluru) and Dr. K Jacob (CMC, Vellore) recently figured in the list of top 2% psychiatry researchers in the world from India in psychiatry.[3] Most of the research conducted in the field of psychiatry are limited to caregivers' burden, pathways of care, and other topics which can be done in limited resources available to psychiatry departments. While all these areas of work are important in providing proper care and treatment, there is overabundance of research in these areas.

The Government of India is aggressively looking forward to enhancing the quality of research and is embarking on an ambitious project of purchasing all major journals and providing free access to universities across the country. The India Genome Project started in January, 2020, is a good example of collaboration. While all these actions are laudable, a lot more needs to be done. Following are some measures which will reduce the gap:

Research proposals at the level of protocol can be guided and mentored by institutes. Academic committees of different zones and journals can help in this endeavorBreaking the cubicles by establishing a collaboration between medical colleges and various institutes. While there is a lack of resources available in individual departments, there are universities and institutes with excellent infrastructure. They are not aware of the requirements of the field of psychiatry and research questions. Creation of an alliance will enhance the quality of research work. Some of such institutes include Centre for Neuroscience, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru; CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, New Delhi; and National Institute of Biomedical Genomics, KalyaniInitiation and establishment of interactive and stable relationships between basic scientists and clinical and technological experts will enhance the quality of research work and will lead to translation of basic biomedical research into real-time applications. For example, work on artificial intelligence for mental health; development of Apps by IITs; Genome India Project by the Government of India, genomic institutes, and social science and economic institutes working in the field of various aspects of mental healthUtilization of underutilized, well-equipped biotechnological labs of nonmedical colleges for furthering biomedical researchMedical colleges should collaborate with various universities which have labs providing testing facilities such as spectroscopy, fluoroscopy, gamma camera, scintigraphy, positron emission tomography, single photon emission computed tomography, and photoacoustic imagingCreating an interactive, interdepartmental, intradepartmental, and interinstitutional partnershipBy developing a healthy and ethical partnership with industries for research and development of new drugs and interventions.

Walking the talk – the psychiatric fraternity needs to be proactive and rather than lamenting about the lack of resource, we should rise to the occasion and come out with innovative and original research proposals. With the implementation of collaborative approach, we can not only enhance and improve the quality of our research but to an extent also mitigate the effects of resource crunch and come up as a leader in the field of biomedical research.

References

1The Sorry State of Medical Research in India. ET Health World; 18 April, 2017. Available from: https://health.economictimes.indiatimes.com. [Last accessed on 2020 Nov 25].
2Nagoba B, Davane M. Current status of medical research in India: Where are we? Walawalkar Int Med J 2017;4:66-71.
3Ioannidis JP, Boyack KW, Baas J. Updated science-wide author databases of standardized citation indicators. PLoS Biol 2020;18:e3000918.