Funding your Research: A Far-reaching Aspect

In a research scholar’s career, the main hurdle to his/her accomplishment is the lack of grants for his/her research. At times, the scholars spend sleepless nights worrying about finding funding resources for their research studies.

Testing or developing theories calls for an in-depth research, with that comes huge funding needs. Hence, here are some of the suggestions that will surely mitigate the funding burden on the research scholars and help them to focus more on their research findings.

Suitable funding resources

National Institutes of Health (NIH): It is the largest public funding organisation for biomedical research in the world, which invests billions of dollars every year with an aim to enhance life, and reduce illness and disability through frequent innovative researches. NIH has funded varied studies that proved as breakthroughs in treatment and prevention, and helping people sustain longer, lead healthy life, and building a foundation for discoveries.

Grants.Gov: It is considered as one of the largest funding sources for research works in the USA.

National Science Foundation (NSF): It is a funding resource for scientists and researchers desiring federal grants for their research studies. NSF has gained fame in providing financial support to academic institutions for basic research and experiments. It has surpassed the margin marked by NIH.

Newton’s List: It is one of the globally available resources providing grants for basic experiments and research works in agricultural sciences, engineering, natural sciences, social sciences, or technology.

Terra Viva Grants Directory: It is a better option of funding resource with both information and opportunities for researchers seeking project grants for fields like agriculture, energy, environment, and natural resources.

Office of Extramural Research (OER) at NIH: It is one of the biggest sources of research grants in category of scientific research across the word. They do not restrict their assistance to funding only, instead they also guide the researcher with their leadership skills, oversight view, and tools required in administering and managing the NIH grants policies and operations.

The Spencer Foundation: It is the best place to approach for funding scientists and researchers who are initiating their studies on a low scale based only on the novelty of the research work.

Universities or Institutes: If you are affiliated with the University, You can directly visit your university office or the department head. Many recognized universities have offices that deal with sponsored programs. They can coordinate your request for grants and helps you unearth the various opportunities available with them.

Fiscal sponsorship: You can also enquire about the funding sources from your colleagues or peers. They can help you find out certain non-profit organization who shares your research interest. In this case, you might get hold of more grant opportunities.

Sci-Hub – A New Napster for Academic Publishers

Sci-Hub or Scientific Hub is an open access online search engine that has gained popularity in the academic publishing industry in recent years. It is a repository of scholarly works with more than 58,000,000 published researches that are available for free and can be directly downloaded by the scholars.

How does it work?

Users can look up publications based on three search criteria: URL of the article, digital object identifier (DOI), and text search. The platform searches for the particular article in its library called Library Genesis (LibGen). If the platform is not able to locate the publication in LibGen, it tries to do so by using various institutional access systems. This can also enable access to articles published in the subscription mode by bypassing the paywall. These articles are usually donated by scholars or publishers.

Benefits of using Sci-Hub

This is a hub for not only research articles but other forms of research publications like monographs, books, book chapters, and so on. It offers free access to most of these researches and saves both money and time of the users. Sci-Hub shares similar goals as open access journals, making many scholarly publications available to anyone who searches for them. The site seeks to remove barriers to science through clear hints of piracy for those who cannot afford to pay the high subscription charges levied by journals or publication houses.

Sci-Hub has accomplished certain important breakthroughs. Its ambit covers many publications by scientists or researchers who have opted to publish in open access journals that can be accessed by anyone. In addition, it has brought academic publishing to the mainstream. As scientific credibility mostly depends on scientific publications, most of the chargeable journals own the copyright for their published articles. In this scenario, Sci-Hub helps researchers access these articles without any hidden cost.

Trump releases his 100 days plan- What for Science?

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Electing Donald Trump as the 45th American President will bring about scads of policy reforms, even faster than the people realize. Starting from freezing the employee recruitments to the scrapping of Obamacare initiatives are all on the list! In addition, the breakneck statements and views of Donald Trump on various scientific facts have also sparked strong reactions among academics. However, the term “Science” has turned out to be a jargon for the Republicans and has found no special mention in the 100 days plan. However, we will have a bird’s eye view on the Trump’s blueprint that he would gift the Americans and the world community this New Year, and figure out if the science facts have been addressed to.

Trump – Throwing on off Policy fetters
Trump’s hard-line positions on immigration — including his commitment towards barring Muslims or terror-prone nationals from entering the US, a plan for wall building across the Mexico borders, imbibing visa restrictions, prioritizing American workers, and the termination of job programs for foreign youths, have surely perturbed the research advocates. Such decisions could sidetrack many talented international students or researchers from studying or working at US institutions. The future of foreign research scholars in the USA could be jeopardized due to such visa restrictions.

Science Facts vs. Trump’s Contradiction- Will it affect R&D funding?
The US has been a major investor of federal dollars in the field of R&D. “The entire business of the US academic biomedical research enterprise is based on federal dollars. Without that, it would collapse,” says Ethan Weiss, an associate professor, University of California. Trump’s shockingly ignorant views on vaccination for children with autism, and calling climate change a hoax and data to be unrealistic, pulling out US (the second most carbon generator) from the Paris climate change submit), curtailing the funds to UN for supporting climate change initiatives, and calling NASA as a logistics agency, have surely put him under the scanner of the intellectuals.
As per the statement released in September, by Donald Trump, he says that “there are increasing demands to curtail spending and to balance the federal budget; we must make the commitment to invest in science, engineering, healthcare and other areas that will make the lives of Americans better, safer and more prosperous.” In an interview by sciencedebate.org, Trump added that “scientific advances do require long-term investment.” In spite of such speculations, the fate of R&D industry is too early to predict. However, before the commencement of 2017, the present US Congress Govt. could approve spending bills before Christmas. These bills will raise the National Institute of Health funding as well as the NSF budget. During the first year of Trump’s presidency, the public funding will be secured.

Uncertain change in the climate
Trump’s election could factor into climate negotiations and be a setback for the upcoming climate change meets. When the world is thinking of implementing Paris agreement, the exit of the US from the Paris summit can be an unfortunate development and the pledge of 800 million USD as the annual contribution to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change may cease. However, legally Trump would not be able to sign off the Summit within his four years tenure.

Donald trump on Healthcare reforms
The Affordable Care Act, an initiative by Obama, which is in its current incarnation, won’t survive if Trump makes good on his campaign promises. By this logic, the funds linked to birth control programs would fade away, though not immediately. Trump may defund Obamacare and associated programs like state grant for medical care. A Trumpian shift to insurance premium deductions and insurance plans sales and the opening of tax-free Health Savings Accounts may not remedy the ultimate problem of high-cost health care services in the US.

Tech Boost and Trump
The Silicon Valley may be benefitted by the manufacturing revival initiative by Trump’s govt. “There are several things that a Trump administration could do that would be beneficial to tech,” says Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. The export industry will flourish over the import, which will be part and parcel of the shifting away from the traditional start-up model and the adjusted tax and trade policy.

We know very little
The research policies and development across a wide spectrum in the US political scenario are still up in the air and have kept the scientific community optimistic (though cautiously). The outcomes of Trump’s immigration policies are also not clear. This is considered as the central pillar of his campaign, which might or might not affect research. Leighton Ku, a professor at George Washington University, said that “it’s likely that the kinds of highly-skilled scientists who immigrate to the US for school or work would still be welcome. But will they want to come?” This is a billion dollar question that still remains unanswered.

Choosing a journal: Open access or traditional publication?

journal selection : Open access or traditional publication

What is open access publishing?

Open access (OA) publishing provides researchers and readers free access to research articles online. In case of OA journals, an article processing fee is levied on the authors after acceptance of the paper. This charge is payable by the researcher, author or the institution the author is affiliated to. However, certain OA journals do not charge any fee and support their operations through sponsorship or subscriptions of the journals.

What is traditional publishing?

Traditional publishing refers to a type of contract between the author and the publisher. In this type of publishing, the author receives a portion of the revenue generated from sales of the journals. This is also known as the “royalty payment model.”

Which route to adopt?

Various factors play a determining role for authors adopting either the open access or the traditional route for publication.

Many researchers consider the open access model as economically unsustainable because it imposes an additional financial burden on them as well as on the institute they are affiliated to. But again, it comes with a basket-full of advantages, such as a much quicker publication process compared to the traditional mode and enhanced visibility of the research to a broader audience. On the other hand, traditional publications have incorporated many reforms in their business models. They ensure manuscript quality and a brand value.

Many publishing houses place the onus on the author. They give authors the choice of either disseminating the research to a wide research community through an OA publication, or opting for the traditional mode of publication.

With the advent of the Internet, we are habituated to rapid changes in business models of the publication industry. However, the journal publication business has been relatively more resistant to change. That is a function of the prevailing academic culture, where the importance of a publication is recognized through the brand value of journals and their ability to promote the publication and win research grants.

Preparing tables for research papers

How to effectively prepare tables for research papers

Tables and illustrations are important tools for efficiently communicating information and data contained in your research paper to the readers. They present complex results in a comprehensible and organized manner.

However, it is advisable to use tables and illustrations wisely so as to maximize the impact of your research.They should be organized in an easy-to-understand format to convey the information and findings collected in your research. The tabular information helps the reader identify the theme of the study more readily. Although data tables should be complete,they should not be too complex. Instead of including a large volume of data in a single unwieldy table, it is prudent to use small tables to help readers identify the important information easily.

Here are some points you should consider before drafting the tables in your research paper:

  • Finalize the results that are required to be presented in tabular form.
  • Include the data or results that are relevant to the main aim of the study without being choosy and including only those results that support your hypothesis.
  • Create each table in a lucid manner and style without cluttering it with in-table citations.
  • Number the tables in a sequence according to their occurrence in the text.
  • Don’t mix tables with figures. Maintain separate numbering systems for tables and figures.
  • Create tables in a storytelling manner. Remember that your tables communicate a story to the reader that runs parallel to the text.
  • If you are using or reproducing tables from other published articles, obtain permission from the copyright holder (usually the publisher) or/andacknowledge the source.
  • Do not repeat the tabular contents in the text again; that will create confusion among readers.
  • Use clear and informative text for each table title.
  • Take extra care while extending the data in your tables. If you have too many tables, consider using them as appendices or supplementary materials.
  • Create tables with sufficient spacing in the layout so that they do not look messy, crowded, or cluttered.
  • Do not forget to spell out abbreviations used in the tables, ideally in the footnotes.

For the reader, a research paper that is dense and text-heavy can be tiresome. Conversely, tables not only encapsulate your data lucidly, but also welcome a visual relief for the reader. They add value to the layout of your paper. Besides, and more importantly, reviewers often glance at your tabulated data and illustrations first before delving into the text. Therefore, tables can be the initial draw for a reviewer and deliver a positive impact about your research paper. If you can achieve an optimum balance among your text, tables, and illustrations, it can go a long way toward being published.

Preparing your figures for research papers

How to prepare your figures for research papers

Often a research paper is embedded with loads of data and complex results and it might not be viable to include all them in the space-constrained paper. Hence, this calls for effective presentation of the information in the form of figures or diagrams. In fact, figures are the most powerful tools that leave a strong visual impact for both reviewers and readers.

Here are few tips on how you can improve the presentation of figures in your research paper.

  • Ensure that the components of the figures are clearly visible including the lines and text.
  • Always use a standard font style and size for the figure text.
  • Every figure needs to have a legend. The legend should support your figure entirely. The reader should be able to understand your figure, paired with its legend, without going to the results or method sections.
  • All abbreviations in the figure legends need to be consolidated and spelt out.
  • All parts of the figure need to be labelled. The symbols, lines, colors, abbreviations, error bars, scale bars, and other components need to be defined and described properly.
  • If you are using photographs of your human subjects, don’t forget to obtain an informed signed consent for the same.
  • Do not be afraid to use lengthy figure and table captions—better that than confusing or incomplete ones.
  • Do not forget to cite the figure that has been taken from another source and supports your present study. Use the same citation style throughout the paper.
  • All journals have their specific requirements for formatting figures, such as file format, font size, font style, image resolution, style of numbering, etc. Adhere to these guidelines before submission.
  • Cite figures in the main text at the appropriate place where the text is supported by a particular figure.

The figures in your research paper communicate a parallel story to the reader. In fact, the reader can derive a fairly good idea of your paper by just scanning the figures in the paper. Remember that figures are not just tools to beautify your text; they are the heart of your research and an intrinsic part of your research paper. This highlights the importance of organizing the figures well so that they are able to perform as an excellent prop for your text.

Research problem: A statement of intent

Research problem: A statement of intent
How do I devise my research problem?

A research problem is a statement based on the area of research, which is the first step in a research process. Devising an appropriate research problem depends on the in-depth knowledge, skills, and expertise of a researcher in their particular subject field. Therefore, a researcher needs to devote considerable time to select a suitable research problem.

Steps to formulate a research problem

There are two essential steps to follow while selection:

  • Identification of a research problem
  • Selection of a broad research topic and narrowing it down to a precise statement.

Sources to derive a research problem

Several factors, both extraneous and intrinsic to the research per se, help the researcher in identifying a research problem. They include the following:

  • Field conditions: The rich experiences in the field provide relevant ideas for developing an apt research problem.
  • Personal experience: This might help generate new ideas for formulating the research problem.
  • Previous related researches and theories, and critical review of the available literature: Relevant questions might crop up in our mind when we evaluate the articles, reports and reviews related to the subject area.
  • Expert advice: Subject matter experts are vastly experienced in the field of study. Hence, they may help the researcher find the current problem related to the research, and even devise a research problem.

What should be the nature of the research problem?

There are several guidelines that need to be followed while selecting a research problem. Your research problem needs to be:

  • An original and unique one.
  • An encapsulation of the nature of research.
  • Feasible vis-a-vis time required for its completion.
  • A realistic statement that can be achieved with the available financial resources.
  • Backed by support from your affiliated institution and peers.
  • Formulated in accordance with ethical considerations.
  • Based on recent or current problems persistent in the field of study.

Types of research problems

Research problems can vary according to the field of study and the scope of the research. Basically, there are three types of research problems:

  • Descriptive
  • Relative
  • Casual

A well-framed and appropriate research problem presents the researcher’s view in a clear and lucid manner, and helps readers understand the purpose of the research better.

How to promote your published articles for maximum impact

Tips and ways to promote your published research articles

Now-a-days, you need to utilize various online mediums to get the added eyeballs for your research articles and promote your research findings and publications to a wider audience. These mediums include social media, search engine optimization (SEO), and blogs.

Nearly one million scholarly articles are published each year. However, for authors like you, that should not be an end in itself. You must promote your published articles and increase the impact of your research and cultivate a stronger reputation as a researcher. That added exposure can help you move your career forward

Here are some effective ways to promote your published research.

Leverage your social media presence

Once your paper is published, take advantage of the many social media platforms to inform your close peer groups, followers, and other academicians in your network to read and follow your research. If you have an account on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+, you can update your research status by sending them a message. Some social media also offer features to track feedback and count “likes” generated by your article.

Connect with scholarly reference platforms

The top rated scholarly or academic reference managing platforms such as Academia.edu, MyNetResearch, ResearchGate, and Mendeley help keep scholars of the same discipline or research branch connected and updated about their latest achievements.

Link your publication to your academic profile

Provide links to your latest articles on your institutional website and online academic curriculum vitae. Interested readers can read, follow, and cite your latest research and publications.

Blog

Maintain your own academic blog and link your article to your blog to enhance the chances of discoverability on web crawlers and search engines. Moreover, post small write-ups about your published research works. Every day, scholarly articles are receiving approximately 12,000 mentions via blogs, otherwise known as Altmetrics. You could be among them.

Attend scientific conventions

Present your papers at conventions. That will enable not only fellow researchers, but also the journalists covering the conventions, to access your research and promote your publications.

Apart from these post-publication tips, you can also promote your article even before it is published. You can use SEO tools for increasing the number of hits. Use clear and widely searched keywords, especially in the title and the abstract. You can add these keywords while creating headings and subheadings for better visibility in search results. But you need to avoid overdoing this because unnecessary repetitions can have a detrimental effect on the visibility in search results.

Ethical conflicts in career of medical writers

Medical writers develop content linked with the pharmaceutical, medical, healthcare, and bio-medical sciences. In performing that role, they often face a dilemma about how much they can change or add content so that their writing is not classified as that of a paid ghost writer. This is one of several ethical issues that are an integral part of a medical writer’s career.

With flexibility in terms of working hours, medical writers are able to explore new interdisciplinary fields to develop content. However, crossing the thin line into the realm of ghostwriting is a grave ethical concern in cases where the manuscript is being submitted  to an academic journal for publication.Ethical conflicts

Following are some of the allied issues that have been questioned in a medical writer’s career from an ethical standpoint:

  • Incorrect interpretation of the results by the writer will not only adversely affect the research but also the credibility of the writer.
  • Inadequate research on the specific research topic and related issues might lead to errors of omission or commission, which will finally have a bearing on the quality of the final output.
  • Pharmaceutical companies are constantly evolving existing drugs and introducing new ones. This might position the medical writer on the cusp of uncertainty because such developments necessitate last minute  changes in the manuscript and, possibly, even the conclusions. Conversely, ignoring such new data will jeopardize the research output.
  • Akin to any other field of writing, plagiarism is a bane for medical writers. Often, medical writers are tempted to present someone else’s research work, either wholly or partly. This unethical practice is resorted to as a shortcut to keep abreast of tight deadlines imposed by the author for writing and submitting a research paper.
  • Authorship issues also pose problems for medical writers. They need to follow the journal guidelines and keep at arm’s length the issues related to conflict of interest vis-à-vis the sole proprietor of the manuscript or the research.

Medical writers need to take cognizance of all these potential pitfalls while developing content because such awareness helps them excel in the field of medical writing and leads to a clear understanding of their work objectives.

Research ethics board: A test of quality

Academic research is founded on trust. Researchers work on the premise that the work reported by others reflects an honest attempt and will aid them accurately. Hence, it is imperative that all research must be approved by a formally constituted research ethics board. This body evaluates the ethical aspects of any submitted work that involves human participants, regardless of the descriptive label given to that work including research, audit, and sometimes debate.

Besides deciding whether the participants in a study have provided their consent, which is a very important factor, an appraisal of the ethical issues in a manuscript also evaluates whether the overall design and conduct of each entity involved in the work is morally acceptable.

In the case of a medical research, the committee investigates the following questions:

–          How much does the study deviate from the current normal clinical practice?

–          Is there any obligation imposed on the patients?

–          Are there any additional risks to the patients involved?

–          What are the benefits for the patients, if any?

–          What are the potential benefits for future patients as well as for the society at large?

Authors need to state clearly that their study was approved by the relevant research ethics committee or institutional review board. If human participants were involved, the manuscripts must be accompanied by a statement certifying that the experiments were undertaken with the informed consent of each. In case of animals used for experiments, the ‘Materials and Methods’ section must clearly specify the details of animal care and confirm that they were not harmed in any manner.

Even when a study has been approved by a research ethics committee or an institutional review board, editors may still have doubts on the authenticity of the submitted work. They may then ask the authors for more detailed information justifying the ethical conduct of the work. The credentials of the research ethics board that reviewed the work may also be sought in case the journal requires further information and justification from that committee. The editors can reject papers if there is any doubt regarding adherence to proper procedures.

If a paper has been submitted from a country where there is no research ethics board, editors should use their own experience and judgment to determine whether the paper should be published. If deemed fit for publication, the manuscript must include a short statement explaining the situation.