Research Work at a Halt, PhD Scholars Wait for Pandemic to Abate
Problems range from lack of access to study materials, research samples leading to delay in field work.
The coronavirus pandemic has severely hit the education sector, making research scholars its victim. The closure of different universities as well as difficulties in going to the field has disrupted scholars’ research.
According to All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE), conducted by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, 40,813 students were awarded a PhD in 2018. With a growing number of PhD scholars in India, it is important to decode the challenges research scholars are facing amid the pandemic.
These problems range from lack of access to study materials, research samples and consequently, a delay in finishing their thesis which may result in lack of jobs.
Access to Study Materials, Internet Connection
For 28-year-old Irshad Khan, a PhD scholar at Himachal Pradesh University, the pandemic has created difficulties in his research work. Irshad says that in the varsity library he can exclusively access study materials for his research work. Now, he is at his home in Manipur and cannot access study materials easily.
“Here at home, I do not have access to many important journals and study materials, even if it is online. I am just waiting for the pandemic to be over.”Irshad Khan, PhD scholar
Niaz Ahmed, a PhD scholar in Jamia Millia Islamia University in Delhi, says that research scholars are facing issues while at home because of poor internet connectivity and electricity cuts.
“It is a fact that we cannot get the varsity environment and the facilities while at home. The varsity environment gives us the chance to debate and discuss affairs related to our research topics, but being at home, it is all different.”Niaz Ahmed, PhD scholar
Chemicals Damaged, Field Work Hampered
For research scholars who are working in the domain of natural science, the challenge is not only limited to the closing of the university but also the risk of damage to the research samples they have collected.
Samim Borbhuyan, a PhD scholar in the Department of Ecology and Environmental Science of Assam University says that he cannot work with the chemicals he prepared earlier.
Samim explains that the research samples he collected are damaged because there is a time duration within which he has to work on the samples, once it is over, the samples are of no use.
However, now that the laboratories are open for a minimum number of research scholars, he is unable to reach the university because of transportation issues.
“I have three samplings in a year, pre-monsoon, monsoon, and post-monsoon, but due to lockdown, I have lost two sampling seasons – pre-monsoon and monsoon.”Samim Borbhuyan, PhD Scholar
He too faces problems with network and electricity due to the monsoon. “Moreover inaccessibility of reputed journals leads to obstacles in research work," Samim adds.
Another Research Scholar from Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, who wishes to stay anonymous, is in the same boat.
“My survey method includes the interview method. For that, I have to be physically present at the spot, which I cannot do right now due to health risks.”Research Scholar
“We are also facing issues in conversion of the JRF (Junior Research Fellowship) to SRF (Senior Research Fellowship) as the administration is not initiating the process of conducting the meeting for the same,” he added.
A postdoctoral researcher from Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, said that her research work is lost and that the work duration is delayed by a year.
“We are doing the experimental type of work that completely depends on an experimental set up. For Biological researches, we use rat models, morse models and also drosophila model. But my samples are of no use now as there is a time duration of the samples within which we conduct the research.”Post-doctoral Fellow
Given the plight of research students, Kolkata-based group Democratic Research Scholars' Organisation has sent a petition to the prime minister and 10 research bodies with a list of several demands like extension of tenure with full fellowship for all scholars, easy monthly disbursement amidst campus closure etc.
Due to the delay in finishing their research, scholars have to wait longer to apply for jobs. Work has increased because of the standstill during the outbreak.
“I estimated that I would complete my research work within three years but now, I do not feel like it will be completed in the estimated time duration as 6 months have already passed in vain.”Irshad Khan
Samim concurs. His research is now delayed by a year.
Like others, joblessness is a great worry for research scholars, particularly for those who are in the final stages of their degree. A PhD scholar from JNU, who was waiting to defend her final research work, says she cannot apply for jobs till that happens.
“Some other universities have already initiated the process of defending final works online but here in JNU, that is not so.”PhD scholar
The important facets of research work are at a halt because of the coronavirus outbreak. For research students whose future hangs in the balance, the only option is to wait for the pandemic to abate.
(All ‘My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)
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