Year : 2020 | Volume
: 14 | Issue : 2 | Page : 61--63
Funding for physiotherapy research
Akhoury Gourang Kumar Sinha
Editor in Chief, Professor, Department of Physiotherapy, Punjabi University, Patiala, Punjab, India
Prof. Akhoury Gourang Kumar Sinha
Editor in Chief, Professor, Department of Physiotherapy, Punjabi University, Patiala, Punjab
|How to cite this article:|
Kumar Sinha AG. Funding for physiotherapy research.Physiother - J Indian Assoc Physiother 2020;14:61-63
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Kumar Sinha AG. Funding for physiotherapy research. Physiother - J Indian Assoc Physiother [serial online] 2020 [cited 2021 Apr 15 ];14:61-63
Available from: https://www.pjiap.org/text.asp?2020/14/2/61/305845
Research and development are interrelated. The growth of a discipline of knowledge is dependent on the research conducted in that field. Incorporation of research in teaching–learning process contributes to enriching the learning environment with the enthusiasm of quest and inquisitiveness. This forms the basis of providing the research a central place in programs of higher education. The highest degree of education – PhD – is a research degree awarded for developing new knowledge, concepts, tools, or the fresh interpretations of existing knowledge and theories. The National Education Policy 2020 places great emphasis on promoting the culture of research.
Research in the modern world is grant dependent. A researcher requires monetary support for expenses involved in conducting the studies. The availability of grant and conversely the lack of it has the potential to encourage or kill the growth of knowledge in a given discipline. Obtaining grant for research related to physiotherapy is an uphill task. UGC, CSIR, ICMR, and DST are some of the major funding agencies that provide grants to research related to health sciences and physiotherapy academicians often apply for grants to these agencies.
The UGC has been providing financial assistance for the research proposals of the permanent, regular, working/retired teachers in the universities and colleges which are enlisted under section 2 (f) and 12 (B) of the UGC Act, 1956. The Major Research Project scheme enables the teachers to carry out intensive and in-depth research studies in specific subject areas with their regular job or even after retirement. The assistance provided for a major research project includes funding for equipment, books and journals, chemicals and consumables, contingencies, travel and field work, hiring services, fellowship to project fellow, and other items required for the project. Similar grants are also provided by DST and ICMR. In addition, some private foundations also provide research grant.
While many physiotherapy academicians have benefitted from such grants, the avenue for grant for physiotherapy research in India can be at best be described as dismal. Often the aims and thrust areas of these organizations do not match with the research interests of physiotherapy discipline, and many a times the teachers of physiotherapy lack the essential qualification for receiving such grants.
Physiotherapy is a clinical discipline, and the research cannot be separated from clinic. However, the opportunity for obtaining research grant is almost nonexistence for the clinicians of physiotherapy. Of late, the number of clinicians having postgraduate degrees and training in research methodology have increased, and many of them have a desire to undertake organized research work in specific areas. For the growth of discipline, it is extremely important to support these clinicians. However, there exists no organized system to support such work. In this situation, it should become the responsibility of the national association to create an endowment fund for facilitating the culture of research. Such endowment funds can be established through voluntary donations from the leading practitioners of physiotherapy as well as from the well-wishers of physiotherapy. The disbursal of funds and monitoring of research work can be entrusted to a multidisciplinary committee of academicians and researchers. In western countries, many self-help groups of patients afflicted with specific conditions often lend support to such clinical research. It is important that such groups are also formed in India. Physiotherapists working with diverse patient groups can catalyze this task.
The need for financial support for survival and decent living is very much significant for the young meritorious minds who wish to pursue the career in higher education and research. The society provides these supports in the form of scholarships and fellowships. Without obtaining fellowship, it becomes extremely difficult to for a young student to undertake advanced studies and research, leading to Ph.D. degrees. There are two options available to young students to obtain fellowships. One is to get associated with specific major research projects having the provision of research fellow, and the second is to avail a personal fellowship.
One of the most popular schemes for obtaining personal fellowship is UGC – Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) scheme. The objective of this scheme is to provide opportunities to undertake advanced studies and research leading to M.Phil/Ph.D. degrees. The scheme is open to candidates who qualify in the National Eligibility Testing (NET) of the UGC-CSIR joint test. This test determines the eligibility for JRF and assistant professors and is conducted twice in a year. There are two papers. Paper 1 is of general nature to assess the research and teaching aptitude, whereas Paper 2 is subject specific. UGC NET exam is conducted in as many as 101 subjects of sciences, humanities, and social sciences including yoga, community medicine and health, and physical education. This scheme provides JRF to 6% of the total candidates in appeared. The fellowship is granted initially for 2 years and is extendable up to 5 year upon the review of the work done during initial 2 years. It provides Rs. 31,000/p.m. for initial 2 years JRF and Rs. 35,000/-p.m. for the remaining tenure of 3 years along with contingencies and HRA. Similar JRF is also awarded by ICMR in the field of biomedical sciences with emphasis on life sciences.
Besides the NET-JRF scheme, UGC provides financially support to pursue the doctoral research to the budding researchers from the different sections of the society through variety of other schemes.
However, obtaining fellowship under these schemes for pursuing PhD in physiotherapy is a difficult task for the simple reason that the subject of physiotherapy does not find any place in any of these schemes. UGC do not conduct NET exam in physiotherapy. However, it provides fellowship if a candidate clears the net exam in any of the allied subjects. Physical education, yoga, and community medicine are some of the subjects that can be considered as somehow related to physiotherapy. Many students, of late, have cleared the NET exam in physical education and have obtained JRF to pursue PhD in physiotherapy. However, this option is not exercised evenly by all the universities. Many universities do not consider NET qualified in physical education as an eligibility for PhD in physiotherapy.
As a result, most PhD in physiotherapy is either done in part time mode or the researchers support themselves of their own. This makes the task of conducting organized research in physiotherapy very difficult. Further, the economic disparities do not allow many meritorious students to pursue higher education and research. Similar situation exists for the discipline of occupational therapy, speech therapy, etc. As in these subjects, the NET exam is not conducted; the candidates from these emerging areas of knowledge also face significant difficulty in pursuing PhD.
Physiotherapy education has a history of 70 years, and in the past two decades, it has taken a quantum leap both in terms of quantity as well as higher academic mobility. Currently, bachelor masters and doctoral program of physiotherapy are being run in 65 universities, and during 2019, about 5551 students were pursuing postgraduate degrees and 249 scholars were registered for PhD. It is important that, in the schemes of government, this discipline of knowledge is not ignored.
Some concrete steps should be taken to provide fellowship for pursuing PhD in physiotherapy and related discipline of rehabilitation sciences. UGC-NET exam is not conducted in engineering and pharmacy, but UGC provides JRF to the students of these disciplines the through another scheme. Similar scheme may also be launched for the students of physiotherapy and other disciplines of rehabilitation sciences. Alternatively, UGC can also start conducting NET in the subject of physiotherapy. This would provide much needed financial support to the students who cannot complete their higher education due to financial constraints and would promote research in this discipline.
Recently, the government of India has proposed to establish a National Research Fund (NRF) as envisaged under the National Policy of Education 2020. NRF intends to competitively fund peer-reviewed grant proposals of all types in all discipline across academic landscape and to promote the development of an ecosystem for research at institutions where it currently does not exist or is limited by constituting seed centers of research in select disciplines at various universities which would bring in research mentors as well as postdocs and doctoral students. It is hoped that such an initiative would benefit physiotherapy research. The physiotherapy academicians working in various universities must prepare themselves to fully utilize the potential of NRF by conceptualizing interdisciplinary research projects focusing on the national needs.
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