Quantum Struggles of a Researcher

A researcher puts their soul, blood, sweat, intelligence and strength into the work that they do. It is the passion and zeal of a researcher to carry on the work and the legacy left behind by their predecessors. The work never stops and the pursuit of learning keeps pressing on. It is with this zeal and enthusiasm that a researcher never gives up amidst unprecedented, insurmountable hardships despite being constantly bogged down.

These words really describe the mantle of a researcher who are nothing short of a real world warrior. However, the struggles are real and it is sad that a lot of those could have been mitigated and resolved ages ago, yet these keep on persisting.

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A never ending routine for any researcher is the consistency with which experiments fail on a daily basis. The cycle goes on and on until one fine day through trial and error, everything works seamlessly. But, the journey from complete disappointment to elation is quite infrequent. The number of cycles one has to go through to fix the problems in any research work, be it methodological, objective wise, result related or even certain unforeseen external circumstances is quite massive. These tend to develop immense pressure on any individual and so, many give up or are too tired to try again.

Financial security is the most talked about theme in the world. Almost every sector of the professional realm has looked upon the need to restructure and reorganize salary framework of employees for combating inflation and ensuring security against unprecedented events. However, a researcher is paid the least amount which barely manages to meet the demands of the economic world. The minimum wages being paid to researchers across the world is a testament to the fact that research is still undervalued. The driving force of any country is it’s R & D arm which provides the necessary impetus to achieve growth and stability for the population, by and large. It is a sad state of affairs to see the financial woes and struggles of a researcher. The hours any researcher puts in is much more than the expected industrial standards. The amount of work a researcher does is tremendous which constantly requires ideating, designing, synthesising, and delivering at the maximum capacity. It never ends and the objectives are always difficult to achieve because of the amount of unknowns involved in the work. Despite all these inputs, a researcher is rarely rewarded for their efforts. Yes, sometimes one gets a prestigious fellowship, or a grant or the opportunity to travel and present their work. But these are limited and are an annual occurrence only. The work that is being put in everyday is so much more than the equated wages being paid.

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A developing nation like India with a growing economy depends a lot on research being churned out which would eventually propel the country and its people towards an advanced and more developed superpower. However, the investment into the realm is so meagre that the hindrances are always insurmountable. In India, almost every researcher involved in research projects have struggled with late payment of salary and stipends since the inception of the project grants. The cycle that one researcher goes through doing administrative work so that the funding agencies release the sanctioned amount is filled with so many hurdles and checkpoints that almost always the delays can last an average of six months to a year. Now, bear in mind the wages are already much lesser than what is being paid to graduates and undergraduates in any other sector. On top of that, a researcher is being paid his dues as arrears only and their salary is never being paid on time. What is more shocking and gut wrenching is the fact that the people in administration who are actually responsible for delivering their tasks on time have created this environment where it has become an acceptable norm to delay the process of fund release. No accountability whatsoever is there regarding doing due diligence and the researchers are the ones who are suffering constantly being pushed around like cattle’s from one desk to another. The government has taken initiatives to curtail the corruption that exists in order to make the system more transparent and efficient. However, the implementation has been unreliable due to the fact that the problem still persists to this day.

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It is a simple fact that a researcher dedicates their day to the work that they enjoy doing because it is not for all to join this field. Whatever might be the reason for someone joining the field of research, the willingness to learn, to grow, to discover and to invent is always there at the core which actually helps in progressing the work and making significant headways. Unfortunately, the woes of financial insecurity, the constant harassment, the undignified treatment and the associated family constraints have ensured that the quality of research coming out of a lab in India is always lagging behind. Even in such trying circumstances, there are rare examples of glory when some researchers break all the thresholds and achieve something truly great. But, there is a serious dearth in the consistency of the deliverance of path-breaking research. To this fact, there is ample evidence why is a nation of 1.4 billion assimilated minds is not able to produce a single researcher with a Nobel Prize. The answer is simple: “Nobel prizes will not come from empty stomachs and never ending debts”.

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Manabesh Nath

A research enthusiast and a neuroscientist by profession, with passion for science communication and frugal innovation.