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Year : 1953  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 122-124

What comprises research?

Date of Web Publication12-May-2008

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How to cite this article:
. What comprises research?. Indian J Ophthalmol 1953;1:122-4

How to cite this URL:
. What comprises research?. Indian J Ophthalmol [serial online] 1953 [cited 2023 Nov 28];1:122-4. Available from: https://journals.lww.com/ijo/pages/default.aspx/text.asp?1953/1/4/122/40761

At the last conference of the All-India Ophthalmological Society at Nagpur, a section of the members were critical about the symposium papers, and said that in most of these papers there seemed to be nothing original, and it was merely a review of literature and work done by others. Why should it even be called a symposium'? As a secretary of the Society I take this as a criticism against myself and I seek to explain the situation in this column.

What is a symposium? In the dictionary the meanings given are (1) a drinking party; (2) a meeting for philosophic conversation; (3) a conference; (4) a collection of views on one topic. The meaning that applies to us in the matter under discussion is the fourth one--a collection of views on one topic.

When a scientific conference meets every year one expects to learn what is the most modern approach on different subjects. Since it is not possible to talk on all subjects at the same time, only one or two subjects are selected on which one can learn almost everything that is to be learnt. This is why it is called a symposium--to learn about as many views as possible. particularly the latest ones on a subject.

We were then asked to compare a symposium dealt with in our conference with the same symposium dealt with in foreign conferences. It was alleged, there was no originality, no research on our side, all that was there was borrowed knowledge. To answer this one must first understand what comprises research. Research in medicine may be grouped under three heads. (1) clinical research, (2) laboratory research and (3) literature research.

For clinical research one needs an exhaustive system of case recording with meticulous honesty and exactness. This form of case-recording does not come naturally and it is only by setting an example and by constant supervision that a teacher in ophthalmology can infuse that character in a budding clinician. It may not apply to some, but in my few rambles across our country I have found the system of case-recording in Indian ophthalmic hospitals by no means satisfactory and I plead guilty of the same shortcoming in my own department.

Laboratory research is the cry of every teacher of ophthalmology in India which finds no ear. There is no institution in India that has a separate laboratory for the eye department, with a separate pathologist and bacteriologist, as we find in many Continental, British and American hospitals. As such one expects to, get very little out of our ophthalmologists by way of laboratory research at least for the present.

One has mostly to fall back therefore on the third type of research viz. literature research, for whatever type of research work we are capable of doing. Even then our libraries are not complete. At most our libraries subscribe for 3 or 4 ophthalmic journals of the world. An attempt is made by local ophthalmic associations to secure as many journals as possible but we are terribly short of back-numbers and even here one has to fall back upon borrowed labour of other workers in the field.

It will be seen that the only form of research we can satisfactorily tap at the moment is clinical research of which there is no dearth, but clinical observa­tions of a superficial nature are not what is wanted. It may be repeated that these observations have got to be very exact and honest, with proper controls .and a follow up, otherwise they would be misleading. For a sample an article on Ocular Haloes and Coronas in the British Journal of Ophthalmology by a meteorologist G. C. Simpson deserves to he commended. It is remarkable how a meteorologist making correct day to day observations of a condition within his -own eve can contribute so much to the knowledge and interest of some common visual phenomena.

The second source of research should cone from the library. Whenever a paper is to be written, relative literature on the subject at least for the preceding five years has to be covered. That not only gives an idea of what ground has already been covered but gives confirmation to one's own observations and -conclusions whenever there is agreement and prepares the ground for facing contradiction whenever experiences differ. The criticism that was levelled against this form of research, that was more in evidence than the other forms of research at the last conference, was that we know all about this, and we have already read about this or that. In a medical conference we are not catering for the benefit .of the " know-most " few in the profession but for the " know-less " many, and in preference of half accurate clinical observations and laboratory data of no great significance it is better that literature research may be presented so that the members may learn something from a resume of the knowledge on the subject, ,even though such knowledge may not cone from their country, until their own original contributions begin to pour in. True it is that such research in ophthalmic literature should not merely be a collection of facts but such facts should be so sifted, arranged and. commented with the use of other like facts that some useful conclusion may be drawn, and the whole when listened to becomes a sequence of events interesting, understandable and useful. Never the less it does make one form of research.

Laboratory research though perhaps most convincing and perhaps the most dramatic will have to take the third position in our country for the present until such time that organised research takes form in future years.

The second question is who should be the members to take part in a symposium '? In former years the secretaries had to go begging to ask different professors of ophthalmology to take part in the symposium. We have been gradually noticing an improvement in this position in the sense we are experiencing less and less difficulty in getting speakers. At the last conference there were speakers who came forward to take part in the symposium without our going out in search for them. As a matter of fact there were so many speakers who volunteered that it was difficult to accommodate them. The secretaries have however realised that it would be best to call for speakers by invitation so that the best possible men who have worked on the particular subject of the symposium may be available.

The speakers on the other hand must understand their responsibilities, which are (1) to confine himself to the part of the subject allocated to him to prevent overlapping; (2) to submit his paper about two months before the conference to enable the editors to adjust any overlapping: (3) to remember that he is sharing honours with other colleagues, and it is the whole that is important and not his own part of the subject, that the colleagues who follow him have something equally important to say; (4) not to go beyond his prescribed time limit at the cost of the time allotted to his colleagues; (5) not to fail to turn up for reading his part of the symposium and take part in the discussion and not to ask someone else to read the paper for him, as has been done on more occasions than one.

Without being too critical of our papers, without being too critical of the lack of original work, let us make the best of whatever material we can lay our hands on. At least let us make a confession of our shortcomings and try to rectify them before we expect ourselves to attain that high standard of paper­-presentation and discussion we are accustomed to read of and hear in distant lands. All that matters is we have made a beginning. It lies within us to show improvement. The grass is always greener in the neighbours' garden, but never the less there is grass in our garden.


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