The PhD Factory: Raising Important Questions For Researchersby Opinion Express August 26, 2018 0 comments
These days, researchers are big news and they don’t get importance for the answers they provide, but for the questions that are raised due to the answers. A little while ago a highly reputed magazine, Nature, came out with an interesting and well-researched article, titled ‘The Ph.D Factory’. Need not be emphasised that the title was self-explanatory and the questions that were raised pertained to the answers that the researches galore provide these days, and the validity as well as the utility of those findings from all over the world. There is so much noise about how our researches are poor in comparison to many of those highly admired nations which claim to have given many path breaking research findings. And we are told that Indian researches are not of high standard, mostly of the cut-copy-paste kind who thrive mostly on plagiarised contents and ideas. Further, the citation index, whatever that means, is poor and hence they are not read and given recognition. Interestingly, the Nature article examined these very issues, but not in an Indian context. It raised questions about global research output and their contribution. Obviously, the findings of the article as well as the questions it raised did not show the so-called highly touted PhD level researches worldwide in a good light. That brings us to a basic question — if that be so, don’t we need to take a relook at the global parameters of research quality and examine the necessity of correlating PhD degrees with research acumen and teaching ability. Moreover, what about the cacophony on Indian quality of PhD researches and, of course, the assumption that holding a PhD degree makes a good researcher and teacher? It needs to be researched, and researched rather rigorously, before we believe the opinions related to India bashing on research output and ability. Something that sounds like pot calling the kettle black. It is more of a Macaulay-like mindset that is the reason for this than any actual and specific evaluation of Indian research. Especially because India has emerged as the largest market for knowledge in the world, much larger than China, given the fact that the Chinese have a much lower receptivity of the knowledge that is being sold in English language. This is not to claim any concession or to suggest that there is no need of a quality check, only we need to take all those sweeping generalisations about shoddy quality of Indian research with circumspection. We were exploited for long by foreign powers who treated us like a colony and it seems this is a new way of imperialism, the knowledge imperialism, in which there are many insiders operating as a tool. While it requires an elaborate discussion on the subject, one young researcher, frustrated by the number of rejections he faced on his articles submitted to the journals marked under fanciful brand names, was rather acerbic in his comments. He said that strange are the reviewers’ comments and assumptions. If you take an idea from one source, it becomes cheating; if you take from many sources, it becomes research; and if you take from several sources and patent it as your own, it becomes an innovation. What prompted him to say so can invite the ire of many, but it needs to be examined why he felt so. As many software offer a quick check on plagiarism, we must first properly define this business of plagiarism.
Pathak is a professor of management, writer, and an acclaimed public speaker. He can be reached at email@example.com
Writer: Pramod Pathak
Courtesy: The Pioneer