Modern research has played a significant role in solving life’s mysteries, and has, paradoxically, sometimes added to them, a la the test tube baby and human cloning. With the advent of time, scientists will delve deeper to deliver landmark results in many areas, such as discovering cures for hitherto untreatable diseases, or preventing a cyclone before it causes damage. We can visualize technologically innovative energy sources and their futuristic applications like manipulating the external environment to sustain life on the Moon. Research is an integral part of human activity and is affected by all the factors that have a bearing on human beings in any way. However, amid all such advancements and applications, it is also critically important to recognize the hurdles in the path of modern-day research, and to find solutions to improve future researches.
The Research Issues:
- Practical problems: The problems faced by modern-day research are usually practical ones, such as devising ways and means to increase energy supply to meet the global demand or eliminate environmental pollutants.
- Ethical issues: In course of their work, researchers are often confronted with certain ethical implications, especially those associated with experiments involving human genetic manipulation, critical organ transplantation, and so on.
- Challenges for young researchers: Research contracts are generally short-term, which are granted for a period of 3-4 years. This discourages in-depth research on any research problem as it becomes difficult for young and ambitious researchers to present a detailed and satisfying result in the research paper. This builds up enormous academic stress on many talented budding researchers.
- PhD programs do not help much: PhD programs offer limited opportunity to the students to equip themselves with the training necessary for pursuing a career beyond the academia. As a result, the number of PhD students graduating every year stands at a new high, but limited academic posts are available for them.
- Project funding: Due to the overflowing number of grant applications and research proposals, most of them are rejected by the funders. As a case in point, NIH (National Institutes of Health), which funds biomedical research, has reduced its acceptance rate to 18.3% since 2015.
- Career prospects: A large proportion of researchers will not be able to secure a coveted faculty position in their chosen field of research due to overcrowding of PhD scholars. There is no strict definition for a post-doctoral researcher position, and the job titles often range from employee to associate, trainee, and student. No proper employee status, salary, and other benefits are being provided to the researchers. In addition to this, parental leave is completely subject to the wish of the supervisor. This seems to be a highly prevalent problem in the Indian context. A post-doctoral position is not really a typical job, but only a transitional position. What you aim to gain from such a position depends on the stage of life you are in, the year of your research, etc. Invariably, a re-evaluation is needed each year.
- Reproducibility crisis: Previously, researchers used to carry out experiments on any existing study outcome for reproduction, with the objective of validating the findings. But modern research is facing an acute reproducibility crisis because of the indifference shown by funding agencies toward such researches. Usually, they prefer to support new or innovative researches. Even research journals are reluctant to publish such studies. Such studies are only entertained in cases where the outcome contradicts the old findings. Often, the low sample size or the poor study design of the old study impedes researchers in replicating the study results.
- Publication bias: Due to the accelerating publication pressure, scientists are forced to produce flashy results that will enable their paper to get through the editorial peer review process for publication. However, all research papers are not published; only those with a unique conclusion or positive results get through for publication.
- Citing negative results or selective reporting: Most research journals today have a high rejection rate (nearly 90%). This implies that only papers with the most distinctive findings make it to publication. During the 1990s, 30% of the published papers cited negative results; they have now drastically reduced to 14%. This reflects the apathy of publishers toward researches with negative results and their predilection for positive results. Even project funding affects what the researchers study and publish. Yet, knowing what is false is as important to science as knowing what is true.
- Plagiarism: Plagiarism refers to the practice of affiliating someone else’s work to one’s own and using the findings as one’s own. With short-term projects and constricted timelines, researchers are now opting for this dangerous shortcut to present their paper. However, plagiarism is not at all acceptable in any form and is considered a serious breach of professional conduct, which may lead to legal as well as ethical consequences.
- Paywall research: The gateways for disseminating research findings have also been a major reason of dissatisfaction among the research community. The subscription charges of paywalled publishers like Elsevier run up to $10,000 or $20,000 a year. This renders them beyond the reach of many researchers. In fact, some scientists pay the charges from their salary as they do not have a budget allocation for such expenditure.
These are some deleterious issues that have plagued the very essence of research.