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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2016  |  Volume : 60  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 154-158  

Methods to enhance capacity of medical teachers for research publications

1 Additional Professor, Department of Dermatology and Venereology, Government Medical College, Thrissur, Kerala, India
2 Professor and Head, Department of Psychiatry, Government Medical College, Thrissur, Kerala, India

Date of Web Publication23-Jun-2016

Correspondence Address:
Neelakandhan Asokan
Prashanthi, KRA-11, PO Kanattukara, Thrissur - 680 011, Kerala
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0019-557X.184574

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In 2009, the Medical Council of India (MCI) made a certain number of research publications mandatory for the promotion to higher posts of medical teachers. Responding to this, there was a series of workshops on research and scientific writing for faculty members of a medical college. We decided to explore the opinions and perceptions of the participants on the need and relevance of such efforts, using qualitative methods such as focus-group discussions (FGDs) and semi-structured interview. The main themes that emerged from the study were as follows: a) presently, there are several hurdles for research and publication; b) recent attempts to upgrade skills of research methodology and scientific writing are encouraging, but need to be sustained; c) the traditional role of clinician - teacher is being replaced with that of clinician-teacher-researcher. Suggestions for future included - a) combined workshops on research methodology and scientific writing skills, b) continuous institutional support system for research and publication, and c) effective mentorship.

Keywords: Capacity building, faculty development, medical education, research publications

How to cite this article:
Asokan N, Shaji KS. Methods to enhance capacity of medical teachers for research publications. Indian J Public Health 2016;60:154-8

How to cite this URL:
Asokan N, Shaji KS. Methods to enhance capacity of medical teachers for research publications. Indian J Public Health [serial online] 2016 [cited 2023 Mar 20];60:154-8. Available from:

The dictum of "publish or perish" is widely accepted in the Western countries. [1],[2] The importance of scientific publications is getting increasingly recognized in India. Research publications have been made mandatory for the promotion to higher teaching posts as per the recently amended eligibility criteria of the Medical Council of India (MCI). [3]

A search for research articles indexed in PubMed revealed that only 2.55% of all the published papers in 2011 had first author affiliation from India. [4] Considering that India accounts for nearly 17% of the world's population, it calls for concerted efforts to upgrade the skill level of the teaching faculty of Indian medical colleges for research and publications.

Ours is a quarter century old medical college run by the state government, having more than 300 faculty members, conducting undergraduate and postgraduate training in various branches of modern medicine. Recently there have been concerted efforts to enhance the capacity of the faculty members in research and publications through a series of workshops on these topics. The objectives of this study were to explore the opinions and perceptions of the faculty on the following:

a. The need and relevance of various efforts to improve their skills for research publications and

b. What further steps would help them in this regard.Qualitative methods were used to capture such perceptions more effectively.

We conducted two separate focus group discussions (FGD), selecting participants by homogenous and purposeful approach. The first group (Group 1) consisted of nine faculty members who used to assume roles, such as facilitators/resource persons/organizers, in various workshops on research methodology and scientific writing skills. The second group (Group 2) consisted of 10 faculty members selected based on their expected ability to provide valuable opinions. We also interviewed the Head of the Institution (HoI) as a key informant.

The FGD and the interview were audiotaped after taking informed consent from the participants. The audio records were transcribed and analyzed manually. We used a combination of deductive and inductive coding. The codes were narrowed into categories and broad themes were identified by repeated reading and analysis of the transcripts.

The following themes emerged from the discussions and interview. Divergent and individual opinions are separately described. Wherever relevant, opinions of the participants are described in their own words, in italics.

Theme 1: Medical teachers face several hurdles for research and publication

Presently, medical college teachers face several hurdles for the publication of scientific papers. Many among the faculty have low levels of awareness, confidence, and motivation. Expressions, such as, "present situation is not encouraging enough," "inertia," and "laid back attitude," repeatedly came up. Many found it difficult to develop good research questions from interesting research ideas. Specific deficiency exists in skills for manuscript writing and tracking. Other hurdles identified were inexperience of senior faculty in research, inadequate knowledge on research methodology, lack of time in an otherwise busy schedule, inadequate level of cooperation and collaboration among different departments, poor standards of maintenance and utilization of data, and lack of emphasis on research and publication during student training.

Theme 2: Recent attempts to upgrade skills of research methodology and scientific writing are encouraging, but need to be sustained

Recent initiatives by the institution were considered timely and appropriate. But there was a consensus that more of the same is required ("It is like breaking a huge rock. Many hits may be needed"). The positive impact of the workshops was not limited to the participants, but percolated to their colleagues. Some participants opined that motivational effect of the workshops were transient. The groups concluded that getting a research paper published would act as a feel good factor for the researcher; and would result in greater social recognition, personal satisfaction, self-actualization, and professional development.

Theme 3: The road ahead - suggestions for future

Optimum pressure from the authorities, such as the MCI and government, was essential for promoting research. The departments also should fix some "targets for research and publications" to its faculty. The onus of providing support and encouragement should be on the senior faculty. Some participants opined that there should be an insistence on quality of research too. ("There is a need to fix the bar high. Only then one will learn to cross it.0") Others felt that insisting on high quality may be intimidating to the beginners.

There was consensus that skills for scientific writing are complementary to research skills. Hence, it would be better if workshops on research methodology and on scientific writing skills are combined. Workshops specifically targeting senior staff were advocated by many participants. Workshops providing more time for interactive sessions and group tasks were also recommended.

Many participants voiced the need for a continuous institutional support system and mentorship to support research and publication. Another suggestion was to form a closed group of researchers - as a learning community - to discuss about their experiences related to publication.

Other suggestions included the need for collective efforts; greater interaction among departments; provision of better research infrastructure such as efficient systems for collection, storage, and retrieval of data; displaying the details of completed and ongoing research projects in the department and the institution; regular conduct of journal clubs in the departments; and workshops for the guides of postgraduate dissertations. These opinions helped us to develop a model roadmap for improving and increasing research publications by the faculty [Model 1 [Additional file 1]].

Theme 4: Vision of "new" medical teacher

The traditional role of "clinician-teacher" is being replaced with that of a new "clinician-teacher-researcher." The need for acquiring skills for research and publication is being increasingly recognized. Medical teachers appreciate that skills for research and publication would augment their critical appraisal skills, which are necessary for evidence based patient care and teaching too. There is greater "individual pride" in research. The research publications are also viewed as an important social responsibility to address various health problems of the community.

An interplay of pressures from the MCI and government (making a minimum number of publications mandatory for promotions) and initiatives from the teaching community itself are trying to equip this "new" medical teacher. Greater access to research funds and other facilities accelerate this process. These opinions helped us develop a model of the "new" medical teacher [Model 2 [Additional file 2]].

There is increasing demand on teaching faculty of medical colleges in India (as elsewhere) to publish research papers. We believe that acquiring skills in two separate but interdependent areas, namely research methodology and scientific writing, are critical to publish, especially in high impact medical journals.

Though there are several barriers facing aspiring teacher-researchers, recent changes in the field of medical education in India have raised hopes and optimism. The defining moment was perhaps the MCI decision in 2009 making research publications mandatory for promotions. This was complemented with several administrative decisions by the government along the same lines. While the faculty in medical colleges always had the potential for research publication, it never got realized adequately. The recent policy changes had an immediate effect and the faculty themselves came forward with efforts at capacity building.

Opinions collected and themes generated from this qualitative study reflect the desire of faculty of medical institutions to bring research and publication to the forefront of their academic environment. The current level of institutional support for research and publications was felt to be inadequate. Demand for sustained support, guidance, monitoring, and mentorship was also evident. Such support systems, when in place, can augment and foster good quality research and publications. Failure to do so entails the risk of losing the present momentum.

The emphasis given by the faculty to include scientific writing skills in the efforts to improve research output was interesting. Different approaches to improve scientific writing skills have been reported. [5] Mentoring is a commonly employed strategy. [6],[7],[8] Jackson (2009) [7] pointed out the role of intensive writing retreats for this purpose, while Shatzer et al. (2010) [8] described the role of workshops. An interesting, though debatable development in the area of medical scientific writing, is the emergence of professional scientific writers. [9]

Can the results of this study in one medical college be generalized to the institutions elsewhere in the country? It is possible that some of the factors identified here may not be relevant elsewhere. But, it is reasonable to assume that the experiences of faculty members in other institutions in the country responding to the same policy changes by the MCI and the government would be similar. The limited number of FGDs conducted as a part of this study is a possible limitation of this study. But we could harness insightful opinions from the participants who were selected on the basis of their expected ability to provide the same.

To conclude, we found medical teachers are concerned about research capacity building and do appreciate attempts to upgrade their skills for research and scientific writing. Concerted efforts in this direction shall be planned and carried out in a time-bound manner in all medical colleges in India. This will help to redefine the role of medical teachers and the scope of medical education in the country.


We are grateful to Dr. K Praveenlal, Professor of Psychiatry and former Principal of Government Medical College, Thrissur, for his support and guidance of the study.

Financial support and sponsorship

The Kerala State Board of Medical Research provided financial support for this study through the Institutional Research Committee of Government Medical College, Thrissur.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

Angell M. Publish or perish: A proposal. Ann Intern Med 1986;104:261-2.  Back to cited text no. 1
Neill US. Publish or perish, but at what cost? J Clin Invest 2008;118:2368.  Back to cited text no. 2
Medical council of India. Minimum Qualifications for Teachers in Medical Institutions Regulations, 1998 (amended up to May, 2015). 2015. Available from: . [Last accessed on 2016 Jun 01].  Back to cited text no. 3
National Library of Medicine: PubMed. 2015. Available from: . [Last accessed on 2016 Jun 01].  Back to cited text no. 4
Kliewer MA. Writing it up: A step-by-step guide to publication for beginning investigators. AJR Am J Roentgenol 2005;185:591-6.  Back to cited text no. 5
Carlson DS, Masters C, Pfadt E. Guiding the clinical nurse through research publication development. J Nurses Staff Dev 2008;24:222-5.  Back to cited text no. 6
Jackson D. Mentored residential writing retreats: A leadership strategy to develop skills and generate outcomes in writing for publication. Nurse Educ Today 2009;29:9-15.  Back to cited text no. 7
Shatzer M, Wolf GA, Hravnak M, Haugh A, Kikutu J, Hoffmann RL. A curriculum designed to decrease barriers related to scholarly writing by staff nurses. J Nurs Adm 2010;40:392-8.  Back to cited text no. 8
Norris R, Bowman A, Fagan JM, Gallagher ER, Geraci AB, Gertel A, et al. International Society for Medical Publication Professionals (ISMPP) position statement: The role of the professional medical writer. Curr Med Res Opin 2007;23:1837-40.  Back to cited text no. 9

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