|Year : 2013 | Volume
| Issue : 4 | Page : 185-186
Uniform standards and quality control of research publications in the field of Ayurveda
P Ram Manohar
AVP Research Foundation, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India
|Date of Web Publication||6-May-2014|
P Ram Manohar
AVP Research Foundation, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
|How to cite this article:|
Manohar P R. Uniform standards and quality control of research publications in the field of Ayurveda. Ancient Sci Life 2013;32:185-6
The explosive increase in the number of so called research journals being published in the name of Ayurveda raises eyebrows. With the availability of online platforms to host open access journals, launching and publishing a new research journal has become child's play.
The fact remains that the publication of research papers and journals in Ayurveda has not come of age. There are serious issues with research methodologies and the process of research itself with the result that more than often, publication of a research paper serves only the purpose of imitating what is done in the domain of biomedical research, without really advancing either the knowledge or the cause of Ayurveda.
It is important to realize that the problem is not primarily with Ayurveda research publication but the process of Ayurveda research itself. The Ayurvedic community has not yet succeeded in visualizing and nurturing an approach and strategy of research that is sensitive to the nature of Ayurveda as a knowledge system and its characteristically unique approach to clinical practice.
Issues with research methodology seem to affect not only Ayurveda, but many other approaches to healthcare grouped under the umbrella term Complementary and Alternative Medicine.  Many years ago, Hardy et al. pointed out the difficulties and challenges in Ayurvedic research highlighting the fact that Ayurveda is rarely studied the way it is practiced. 
The research scenario in the field of Complementary and Alternative Medicine has also been critically reviewed pointing out the thoughtless manner in which research methodologies developed in the context of biomedicine have been applied to evaluate therapies and medicines that are complex and different. 
The over reliance on randomized controlled trials is being questioned and alternative approaches are being explored and recommended.  Most importantly the need for evaluating treatments in real life situations is also being realized and being emphasized.
When it comes to the study of drugs, a very reductionistic approach is adopted for research. The focus is on isolation of single molecules or discovery of new chemical entities by fractionation. There is hardly any attempt to study the complexity of the interactions between various molecules in a complex formulation even when these formulations are actually used in clinical practice.
To summarize, the emergence of new research journals has not really contributed to the generation of scientific evidence that makes a difference to Ayurveda. Answers to many critical questions still remain elusive.
The primary focus has to be on research and research methodology. The Ayurvedic community has not yet succeeded in developing a proper perspective on the kind of research that is needed today. In these circumstances, research journals end up publishing "run of the mill" submissions.
The mushrooming of research journals, specially on online platforms raises serious concerns about the quality of the information that is being disseminated in the name of research. Already Ayurveda has been characterized as "pseudoscience" by Beall in the wake of the sudden explosion of spurious publishers and publications dealing with research in Ayurveda.  Although Beall is obviously biased against Ayurveda and uses this opportunity to spice up his arguments against Ayurveda, it is important to realize that the lapses within the Ayurvedic community makes the latter vulnerable to criticism.
It seems imperative that the research journals in the field of Ayurveda team up to enforce uniform standards for publication and deal with the challenges of scientific publishing in Ayurveda in a systematic manner. It is heartening to note that such an initiative was indeed taken up and a committee of editors of Ayurveda journals was constituted. The committee has met several times, a few of the meetings were held on the sidelines of the World Ayurveda Congress. However, not much of progress has been made in establishing the committee as a functional body or to develop guidelines for uniform standards for Ayurveda research journals. This activity needs to be pursued with earnestness if we are to bring respectability for scientific publishing in Ayurveda.
It will not be out of place for the committee of the editors of Ayurvedic research journals to promote training programs in research methodology and scientific writing. Students of postgraduate and doctorate programs should be specifically targeted. Better quality research work and better submissions from this research space in Ayurveda are sure to translate into better submissions for the research journals.
Another area of challenge is the review of articles. Journals of Ayurveda face numerous hurdles when it comes to peer reviewing of submitted articles. Many articles are written from Ayurvedic perspective while others combine Ayurveda and modern scientific methods in ways that it becomes difficult for reviewers to make proper assessment of the quality of the submissions. There is a need to develop guidelines for reviewers of Ayurveda research journals and training programs need to be conducted from time to time to nurture the culture of unbiased and sound peer reviewing.
Well-conducted scientific conferences go a long way in hand-holding young and upcoming researchers through the process of peer reviewing and scientific communication. For this, it is important that scientific conferences team up with research journals to enforce standards for submission of research abstracts, peer review and also publication of the abstracts after the conference. The fifth edition of World Ayurveda Congress saw the initiation of this process and the selected abstracts are published in supplement issues of Ancient Science of Life, Ayu and the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, the three PubMed indexed Ayurveda research journals.
There is a need for homework when it comes to working out the guidelines for Ayurveda research articles. While the basic framework laid out by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors are applicable for Ayurveda, there are many areas where customization is called for and specific norms and guidelines need to be evolved. Usages of Sanskrit terms, script as well as methods of citing references of classical Ayurvedic texts are examples.
Often authors get into difficulty with reviewers when they are asked to include discussions based on the principles of Ayurveda in the submission or asked to provide scientific explanations for their findings and conclusions depending on the approach of the reviewer.
Authors also face difficulties with respect to research methods. Ayurvedic studies often require adaptation of research methods and this can be assessed unpredictably by reviewers who may favor or oppose the modification of established research methods.
To sum up, it appears as though the time is ripe for the editors of the upcoming journals in the field of Ayurveda to put their heads together to chalk out strategies and action plans to take scientific publishing in Ayurveda to the next level.
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