Guest Post Written by Dr. Saurav Arora (The Author)
Title: Research awareness in Homoeopathy: A descriptive opinion based survey to see the prevalent research status
Abstract: There has been a gain in momentum in homoeopathic research in last few decades as evident from various research studies and publications. This spurt in research activities aims at clinical, physical, chemical, biological and medical achievements with universal scientific norms. It is also proposed to streamline and standardize the research activities. On the other hand, many authors have expressed the scarcity of quality reports and lack of reproducibility in such trials. It is also apprehended that a similar situation occurs at clinical level when we claim cures. If we consider all these factors, we may hypothesize that is variability for research awareness. To assess the current situation regarding research awareness, a descriptive opinion based survey has been undertaken, aimed at initiating a basic enquiry about current status of research awareness. It was designed to explore the pattern, inclination and acceptability of research practices and also peer reviewed publications at a single point of time in a given population. Majority of the participants expressed a need to carry research activities at grass root level, application of institutional research in clinics, more number of peer review publications, research oriented webinars, professional groups and meetings. Clear research methodologies, separate guidelines for homoeopathic research, robust infrastructure were amongst the strong feedback common to many.
Keywords: homoeopathy, peer reviewed publications, research, survey
Homoeopathy is widely accepted as a form of alternative medicine1 and is gaining popularity for its holistic approach but at the same time it is one of the most controversial forms of alternative systems of medicine. It has sustained for over two decades despite periodical challenges by scientists and skeptics2, but use of ultra-low doses and high dilutions (beyond Avogadro’s) seems to makes it controversial. There has been a momentum of homoeopathic research in last few decades to explore new avenues. This spurt aims at clinical, physical, chemical, biological and medical achievements with universal scientific norms. It is also aimed to streamline and standardize research activities2. The in vitro and in vivo effectiveness of homoeopathy has been proven many times but effectiveness of such trials is still an open debate in scientific community. Over recent years, fundamental research has become more sophisticated and systematic in its approach3, but the scientific basis of homoeopathy has not been effectively proven so far. Despite several quality publications many authors express the scarcity of quality reports and lack of reproducibility due to uncertainty of methodologies 4. Homoeopathic publications are questioned many a times for their genuineness, and are subjected to special scrutiny5. It is commonly observed fact that research practices are complex at times… There is a need to implement long-term practice to enable researchers to refine intellectual tools to interpret experiments and adjust methods6. Researchers engaged in this emerging field are familiar with the “weapons” and rules of this battle; however, still there is a huge numerical and organizational difference7. It is also apprehended that the similar gap exists between institutional and clinical research. If we consider some of these factors to be applicable everywhere, we may hypothesize that there exists variability in research awareness and implementation regarding current research practices.
A descriptive opinion based survey was undertaken with aim to initiate a basic enquiry about awareness to research practices. It also aimed to explore pattern of thinking, inclination & acceptability of research, knowledge about peer reviewed journals/publications at a single point of time in a given population. Surveys may be used in variety of ways, but generally they refer to selection of a sample of people from a pre-determined population, followed by the collection of a relative data. This survey has been designed to provide snapshot of population’s opinion regarding research8. Survey research is a common tool to health studies and services, but it is important to emphasize here that this survey is a research strategy and not a research method9.
Material and methods
Step – I: Planning
a) Aims and objectives: The survey was undertaken with following objectives:
- To opine awareness of research amongst homoeopathic practitioners and researchers. [click to tweet]
- To opine the general outlook for research related practices.
- Prevalent trends of research activities in clinical practice.
- To see the awareness regarding peer reviewed journals in general.
b) Literature review: the related literature was searched online and offline to understand the present research status and frame questions accordingly.
c) Selection of questions: questions were placed in descriptive opinion based format.
d) Questionnaire layout: Single, clear, explicit questions grouped accordingly as closed (multiple choice – 10) and open (1).
Step – II: Execution
a) Sampling method: Random sample method (as adopted commonly for research surveys)10
b) Type: Opinion based descriptive survey.
c) Target population: The survey was circulated through email to homoeopathic practitioners. No personal contacts were made.
Step – III: Characteristics
a) Content validity: The questionnaire was subjected to in-house analysis prior to circulation.
b) Online structured survey was used with benefits like
- Easy to formulate, maintain, share and follow
- Easy data collection and processing.
- No financial implication for conducting survey.
c) Piloting was done using standard technique of “read and report error if any”. Questions, layout and online filling was tested using own response, but the same has been dropped from the results to remove any kind of subjective bias.
d) Covering letter was sent along with email explaining the need of survey and ethical declarations e.g. keeping the identity of participating individual confidential.
Step – IV: Reporting
The responses were received online and were stored in Microsoft excel format for analysis. The data was processed regularly for uniformity and reliability.
There were a total of 76 respondents. The duplicate entries were omitted from results and responses were coded for easy assessment.
Discussion & Conclusion
Research practices are becoming prevalent across the globe. The receptivity towards research depends on factors like easy understanding, easy availability of new research findings, quality of methodology, authorship etc. There is also variable awareness of research practices across globe but above factors can be applied to almost every region. The following observations were concluded from survey results: –
- 60% of participants agreed partially for proper carrying/functioning of research in homoeopathy.
- 52% of the participants think that it is difficult to conduct homoeopathic research because of limited resources. (The resources however, were not asked in the survey).
- 44% participants never tried conducting research at their clinics, whereas, 29% tried it but could not carry it further.
- 48% of target population thinks that there is a need to abridge gap between institutional and clinical practice, however, 26% agreed that their clinical practice is benefitted by outcomes of institutional research.
- 32% of participants didn’t know existence of peer reviewed journals in homoeopathy.
- 59% of participants never approached any peer review journal for publication of scientific articles; whereas 07% tried to send but could not carry it to a logical end.
- 34% people read research articles on an average once in a week, followed by 28% who read them once in a month, and 25% who read them rarely.
- It has been observed that 83% participants have less than 05 peer review publications to their credit, followed by 16% with more than 10 peer review publications.
- 66% participants expressed their opinion to make research studies freely available, whereas some (13%) expressed need of a small amount of subscription fee for such articles.
- 86% participants expressed the need to have research oriented articles and webinars on regular basis.
Besides 10 structured closed questions, 01 open question was open for readers to express their views regarding research practices in homoeopathy. The salient features of commonest responses can be summarized as follows: –
- Research practices such as new provings; research on potencies, proper methodologies, updated teaching strategies, reformation of repertories etc. is the need of hour.
- Homoeopathy must have separate guidelines for conducting research.
- Research methodologies must be taught at undergraduate level.
- Modern research methods and techniques should be incorporated in research methodologies.
- More research papers should be published to educate and promote homoeopathy. The scientific papers written must clearly depict aim, and others to replicate the same.
- More studies on animal and plant models are desired by many, as this remove the possibility of placebo effects and many confounders.
- There must be separate agencies to register and audit homoeopathic research. This will also enable us to find list of ongoing and concluded researches.
- Research practices should be strengthened in terms of resources, facilities, funds and participation of like-minded people.
- Platform for open discussion must be promoted for advice, support, criticism, and insight.
- Mass communication methods such as newsletters, webinars, professional groups, social networking etc. must be initiated to make people more aware.
- Scientific compilations such as case studies, proven drugs, RCTs etc. may be compiled in the form of centralized database, which will allow homoeopaths to learn and search research papers with ease.
The magnitude of research cannot be estimated in few words, as it is an ever growing and not fully explored area yet. Despite presence of variability in approach and pattern of thinking, we are bounded by common thread “Homoeopathy”. We must promote research practices in homoeopathy by means of education, clear methodologies, sufficient funds, and interaction with other researchers. With the paucity of literature of related similar surveys (to best of knowledge of author), a comparative analysis could not be performed. Also, this model has various limitations including small sample size. The survey may further be taken up to validate the results and conclude statements for general population too. This survey is not intended to replace existing research practices, but it aims to sensitize individuals for better practices. More explicit surveys with larger sample size are encouraged to prove the validity of existing survey.
- Avello L M, Avendaño O C, Mennickent C S, General aspects of homeopathy, Rev Med Chil. 2009 Jan;137(1):115-20.
- Khuda-Bukhsh AR, Towards understanding molecular mechanisms of action of homeopathic drugs: an overview, Mol Cell Biochem. 2003 Nov;253(1-2):339-45.
- Bellavite P, Andrioli G, Lussignoli S, Bertani S, Conforti A., [Homeopathy in the perspective of scientific research], Ann Ist Super Sanita. 1999;35 (4): 517-27.
- Brockow T, Franke A, Resch KL., Is homeopathy more than a placebo? Praxis (Bern 1994). 1998 Dec 3;87(49):1687-94.
- B. Stock-Schroer et al, Reporting Experiments in Homeopathic Basic Research—Description of the Checklist Development, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Volume 2011, Article ID 639260
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- Kate Kelley, Belinda Clark, Vivienne Brown, John Sitzia, Good practice in the conduct and reporting of survey research, Int. Journal for Quality in Health Care, Volume 15, Issue 3, Pp. 261-266
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About the Author: Dr. Saurav Arora
Dr. Saurav Arora received his BHMS from Dr. B. R. Sur Homoeopathic Medical College, Hospital and Research Centre, affiliated to Indraprastha University, New Delhi in year 2006 and was honoured with Gold medal for meritoriously securing first position in BHMS. Immediately after internship, he joined as In-House Physician in the same hospital and served in In-Patient Department for one year. He is Joint Secretary, Indian Institute of homoeopathic Physicians.
Dr. Saurav started his research career as Senior Research Fellow in a project under Extra-Mural Research of Central Council for Research in Homoeopathy in 2008, and worked therein along with involvement with various other projects in collaboration with Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Allied Sciences , DRDO. In year 2011, he joined Dilli Homoepathic Anusandhan Parishad under Department of AYUSH. Since January 2012, he has been working as Senior Research Fellow in Central Council for Research in Homoeopathy being involved in Fundamental and Collaborative studies. He is a passionate promoter of research in Homeopathy to masses. He founded www.audesapere.in 2011 as a part of his dream. He is also the Chief Editor of the monthly e-newsletter ‘Research Updates-Homeopathy’ (ISSN 2278-4500).
The above article was originally published by Dr. Saurav Arora as “Research awareness in Homoeopathy: An opinion based survey” in Medicina Futura in June 2012 and is republished here with his explicit permission. The Copyright is reserved with the author (Saurav Arora). All opinions are that of the author.
The above Guest Post is the eighth in the GUEST BLOG SERIES. For reading previous Guest Posts check out https://drnancymalik.wordpress.com/2012/08/23/guest-blog-series
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