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Year : 2022  |  Volume : 15  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1-2  

Emancipation of our medical researchers: Long overdue

Department of Community Medicine, Dr DY Patil Medical College, Hospital and Research Centre, Dr DY Patil Vidyapeeth, Pune, Maharashtra, India

Date of Submission24-Sep-2021
Date of Decision11-Nov-2021
Date of Acceptance13-Nov-2021
Date of Web Publication7-Jan-2022

Correspondence Address:
Amitav Banerjee
Department of Community Medicine, Dr DY Patil Medical College, Hospital and Research Centre, Dr DY Patil Vidyapeeth, Pune, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/mjdrdypu.mjdrdypu_766_21

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How to cite this article:
Banerjee A. Emancipation of our medical researchers: Long overdue. Med J DY Patil Vidyapeeth 2022;15:1-2

How to cite this URL:
Banerjee A. Emancipation of our medical researchers: Long overdue. Med J DY Patil Vidyapeeth [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 May 24];15:1-2. Available from: https://www.mjdrdypv.org/text.asp?2022/15/1/1/335045

Medical leadership is a reflection of global power dynamics. Many neglected tropical diseases which are still burdening Asian and African continents were public health issues in Europe and America prior to the 19th century. Malaria was a problem in the UK well into the 20th century. During the Victorian era, England was ravaged by plague, cholera, typhoid, tuberculosis, typhus, and smallpox.[1]

During the colonial era, European medical investigators prioritized research in these communicable diseases and rolled out efforts for their prevention and control globally, also encompassing African and Asian continents. This was driven ostensibly by humanitarian reasons, “the white man's burden,” but more pragmatically to safeguard the health of their citizens occupying these lands during colonial rule.

The colonial period was the golden age for research in communicable diseases prevalent in the tropics.[2] With their resources and advantage, the colonial researchers from Europe took the lead.

The colonial rule ended after the Second World War. The European researchers lost interest in researching communicable diseases endemic in their erstwhile colonies in Asia and Africa as these diseases were no longer prevalent in their own countries due to improved standards of living. However, years of colonial domination had established their role as medical thought leaders for the globe.

To this day, they dominate mainstream medical thinking. Medical literature in journals published in the West is read with fervor and reverence, usually reserved for religious texts. Prejudice causes researchers from Asian and African countries to be underrepresented even in studies conducted in their own country.[3] A reputed journal, The Lancet, itself confesses that in the choice of priorities, there is a racial bias toward publishing content more relevant to the developed world as their editorial members are predominantly from the West.[4]

So why do we continue to put these journals on a pedestal? To a large extent because of the inertia and apathy of our academic regulators who still continue to bow under the perceived superiority of these “foreign” journals. Research published in these journals is rated superior. Indian journals which are not indexed in “foreign” databases such as PubMed, Scopus, and Web of Science are discounted.

Such an academic environment is not enabling for Indian journals to thrive. Until Indian journals are considered on par if not superior to foreign journals by accreditation agencies, our journals will not thrive as authors would strive to publish their best work in foreign journals.

Half measures such as launching the University Grants Commission list of high-quality journals or creating databases such as IndMed are inadequate if journals indexed in them are not considered on par with foreign databases such as PubMed or Scopus. Equal recognition of these Indian databases would provide the opportunity for our researchers to get their due recognition.

It will also enable them to take full advantage of the research opportunities provided by the vast variety of endemic diseases which are far superior in novelty to those available to researchers in the West with their more limited range of ailments. If in spite of these advantages Indian researchers do not take the lead as medical thought leaders and continue to blindly imitate the western researchers, minor ailments of affluence will get more priority than major ailments of poverty. Failure to seize the leadership role in medical research will firmly establish the era of “Medical Imperialism.”

On their part, journals published in African and Asian continents have to raise the bar. Noblesse oblige, privilege entails responsibility. Quality not quantity matters. Difficult in the present publish or perish culture. The standard of scientific writing should be raised. A number of global publishing houses have entered into contracts with scientific societies from these parts of the world. As more journals from Africa and Asia engage with these professional publishers, we may soon find our journals second to none.

  References Top

Cook GC. History of tropical medicine, and medicine in the tropics. In: Cook GC, Zumla AI, editors. Manson's Tropical Diseases. 22nd ed. Edinburgh: Saunders Elsevier; 2009. p. 1-8.  Back to cited text no. 1
Banerjee A. The British Raj and rise and fall of tropical medicine. Med J DY Patil Univ 2013;6:121-2.  Back to cited text no. 2
  [Full text]  
Mbaye R, Gebeyehu R, Hossmann S, Mbarga N, Bih-Neh E, Eteki L, et al. Who is telling the story? A systemic review of authorship for Infectious disease research conducted in Africa: 1980-2016. BMJ Glob Health 2019;4:e001855.  Back to cited text no. 3
Horton R. Medical journals: Evidence of bias against the diseases of poverty. Lancet 2003;361:712-3.  Back to cited text no. 4


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