How to Apply for Research Funding

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Getting funded for your research ideas is not easy. Some researchers have to abandon their projects because they have difficulties finding additional funding to carry on their research. Some researchers assume that searches for funding are something that everyone knows about, while the reality is that preparing a successful grant application is a skill that everyone can learn.

Many research grants are awarded on a competitive basis, but having the most relevant research idea is not the only requirement to getting a better chance of having your project funded. Scientists and academics who have big ideas which can potentially help the health and medical fields should not immediately let go of their idea because their grant proposals got rejected.

This article will cover some basic strategies on how you can get your research idea funded.

  1. Learn about grant writing.

Before applying for grants, it would be helpful to acquaint yourself with grant writing. Get samples of application drafts from your fellow researchers, or research for samples online. Even if you do not have a research project in mind, it is important to start researching early so you can get funding grants when they are available.

  1. Decide what you need the money for.

When asking for a grant, you need to know the scope of your project so you understand where you will need the funding for. Will it be to help pay for the travel for the archival research or fieldwork, will it be to cover for the time you need to do the project? Or will it be for the expenses to bring experts together to hold a workshop? If necessary, get quotes from suppliers to ensure your budget is reasonable.

  1. Read the eligibility criteria.

It is important to see if there is a match on what you want funded, and what types of research falls within the scope of what the funders are interested in. Reading the rules can save you application time if there is no match between what you are looking for and what the funder is looking to sponsor

  1. Talk to other researchers or university professionals who have experienced getting their grants approved.

Talking to other researchers can give you a better understanding on what they did to prepare themselves for their research idea to get granted. It would be even more helpful to get acquainted with researchers who have won funding from the organization you are applying to.

Aside from researchers, you can also approach university professionals; they can be senior advisors or professors who have experience in the field of getting funding. They can help you develop your project description, help you with budgets, and advice and assist with grant applications.

  1. Learn to answer the questions asked

One common mistake done by applicants is not answering the questions being asked by the funders. Most applications are given asset of guidelines such as limited word count, so it is important to focus on what is important about your proposed research and clearly lay out your proposal according to the required formats.

  1. If you’re unsure, ask.

It is highly recommendable to get in contact with the funders if you are unsure about something or have particular questions about the application.

  1. Ask other people outside the research circle to read your application.

The people who read your application are not necessarily technically as knowledgeable as you in the topic you are planning to research about. It would really help if you get friends, family or other people outside the academic circle to read and comment on your application. This way, your application would be more understandable by the panel who will be reviewing your application.

  1. Revise, revise, and revise.

Quality is better than quantity. You are better off working hard on one research proposal and keep revising it until you are ready to submit a high quality application rather than cutting yourself too thin and sending several different proposals with little preparation for each. Give yourself time to read, prepare, write and review your application before sending it through.

  1. Don’t let rejection stop you.

Do not let one rejection disappoint you. A lot of researchers had to apply many times before they received a grant. Being rejected does not mean that your idea is not worth pursuing. It may just mean that you may need a different approach, or it might mean that there was not enough funding available in the round you were in.

If you get rejected, it is very important to ask for feedback as to why you got rejected. Most likely you will be getting suggestions from the reviewers which can add value to your next application.

  1. Be proactive about finding more opportunities.

When you have a clearer understanding about what kind of funding you will be needing for your research idea, it would be easier to start matching it with the different grants available.

Collaboration is the Key to the Medtech Industry

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In any field, there is always that big question – how do we innovate?

Associations and organizations are always thinking of ways to enhance their outputs, whether it is through new technology or more research. One thing often overlooked in this matter is the role of fostering collaboration between the different stakeholders to create progressive change.

The medical technology in Denmark, for example, has a tradition of collaboration between universities, hospitals and the industry. Their philosophy on ‘We’re in this together’ – shows that no single participant comes up with a solution, but through collaboration, coaching and an open approach will the country be able to develop and thrive on innovation (MedTech Engine).

Tine Hartmann Nielsen, Life Sciences team leader at Invest in Denmark, stated that:

‘The reason why the Danish medtech industry is so quick to develop new and user-friendly solutions is linked to a close collaboration between universities, hospitals and the business community that facilitates a conducive business environment. The medical devices industry is sustained by innovation and product R&D, and companies in Denmark benefit from an array of well-established innovation centres distributed throughout the country,’.

Collaboration may seem challenging for some organizations. It can be difficult meeting eye-to-eye because of different organizational cultures and goals. It may almost seem like the counterparts are speaking different languages because of the different backgrounds and expertise. Thus the importance of building bridges at earlier stages with relevant parties.

Earlier Engagement to Improve Patient Outcomes

Expert Leslie Levin, the founder and chief scientific officer of the Excellence in Clinical Innovation and Technology Evaluation (EXCITE) at Canada’s innovation hub would argue that a more collaborative approach among medical device developers, payers and patients through the use of evidence would be the right approach to rapidly enhance the approach to innovation (The Australian Business Review).

Early engagement and socialization of technology are important to significantly improve patient outcomes. Payers for example, need to be involved in the early processes even before it has been approved by regulators. This way, the payers can help with the evaluation of the technology and help pull it into the health system.

Some start-ups and smaller medtech companies without the right funding in place are having difficulties partnering with larger companies to foster innovation in the digital health market. For academias, they are heavily reliant on the traditional model of asking for competitive grants to move innovation along (Medical Device Daily).

All these are slowly changing. There is more interest on the academic side and industry to do some sort of sponsored research or collaboration. For start-up companies and smaller medtech companies who are looking to partner with larger companies, they have to engage with large companies at earlier stages of their product development or conceptualization as most large companies aren’t looking to reinvent the wheel, but to find a company that could help them fill the gaps.

Finding Partners for Medtech Collaboration

As technology continues to evolve, companies will continuously search for innovative partners. Knowing when to approach an external expert is a challenging but crucial skill. The industry will constantly be evolving and with every new disruptive change, there may be a need for a new partner. Companies need to be creative in terms of partnerships instead of trying to do everything on their own.

Andy Fry of Team Consulting stated that most organizations approach partners when they have already made all their decisions and they have concluded their formulation. This has resulted in communication failures and would have been more feasible for all parties if the discussions have taken place during earlier stages (Drug Delivery Business News).

It is imperative to find a partner to understand your company’s end-goal, and also understand theirs to see if your goals are aligned.

Time Management for Researchers

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It may be easy to lose track of time while doing a research project because the time allocated to complete the project seems a long way off. It would appear like there is a lot of time to get the research finished and thesis completed, but in reality, the amount of time given is normally just enough to complete the required task. For any study to be well researched, it needs to be given the ample time it needs.

Time management is important for a research paper, or preparing applications for research funding. One of the main skills employers look for is how well one can demonstrate their ability to manage time and submit deliverables by a fixed deadline. Time management is important if you want to be successful in different walks of life.

People tend to start creating a time management “system” when they are already falling behind with their work, and start using tools to help them “catch-up”. This results in a lot of cramming and spending more time on a project because of disorganization. This habit may also result in lower quality of work.

It is important to have a system in place early in the academic year. Normally, a system would include a goal, a time tracking tool and a plan on how you would approach time management. And lastly, it normally includes a self-monitoring system. Self-monitoring includes a review on how well you are doing over a certain time, and how precise you are with tracking your deliverables based on the time you have allocated.

The purpose of this article is to share with 5 tips on how to manage your time so you can improve your academic and personal performance.

  1. List down all the things you need to do.

It would be hard to create a plan if you do not know how much work is required to complete the research. Plot down deliverables, deadlines and list them based on priority and learn to complete the most important tasks first.

  1. Give time for planning.

Once you have the list of things you need to do, you need to find out how much time is needed for each task. Some tasks may require you to visit different libraries, or speak to different people. It is important to plan so you can save time instead of running around back and forth to different places.

Some people give 30-minutes before they start their day to planning. Some people prefer doing this just before they go to bed so they are ready for the next day. Either way, planning is important on a daily and weekly basis.

  1. Create a schedule.

Some people like to look at their schedule in detail one day at a time, some weekly, some monthly. Do whatever you feel comfortable with but the importance is plotting it down into a calendar. Some people like to have a pin-up planner by their work desk, some prefer to have it on an e-calendar that could be accessed anytime, and some carry around a diary with their schedules on it.

A schedule is not only about plotting deliverables for the day, but also finding out how much time you will dedicate into completing the tasks. It gets easy to lose track of time if you have a short task and allocate the whole day for it. So plotting the amount of time you will need to complete it is also significant so you can dedicate the rest of the day into other things. This also allows you to figure out how much time you require per task.

  1. Avoid unnecessary distractions.

With social media usage on the rise, it is so easy to get distracted. Learn to not answer the phone just because it is ringing. Disconnect from instant messaging and don’t reply to e-mails just because it pops up. The time you have allocated should be used to focus on the task at hand.

Aside from your phone, it is also important to find a location that can help you focus better. Some people like to work or study in coffee shops, but some coffee shops can be very noisy and productivity can be low.

  1. Give buffer time and be flexible sometimes.

Every now and then you may come across an important task that is not related to your research paper and it needs to be attended to even if it clashes with your schedule. That is why it is important to give yourself buffer time for most tasks, just in case you get caught up doing something else, or you get stuck in traffic longer than expected, or your meeting with your lecturer ended up longer than you scheduled.

Allocate personal time or dead-time in your schedule so you can either spend this time building your network, socializing, working out or relaxing. If your schedule went out of hand, you may use this time to cover the time lost doing other tasks.

The important thing about time management is being able to measure the amount of time spent per task, and reflecting on how well you have done for the day or week. This way, deliverables can be constantly adjusted if you are falling behind schedule. Most importantly, it is necessary to have a balanced life for maximum productivity – so it is always better to work smarter than working harder!

Academic Networking for Researchers: Why is it important?

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Doing research on a topic only few can relate to may have its downside. Apart from the challenges in conducting scientific research or the difficulties in attaining research funding, there may be times you will feel isolated because you spend so much time working alone in a library or in a laboratory. Maybe sometimes, it gets easier to lose track and prioritize other things when you don’t have a support person or team. Or maybe you end up mingling in the same group of people that are helping you succeed in your research circle and don’t take time to expand out from that.

Being the best in academics is not the only way to create the best research material. Apart from performance and productivity, it is important to have good network relations to ensure better results in your studies and post research career.

Here are some tips which can help you enhance your academic life while completing a research:

  1. Start with your supervisor or research mentor.

Your supervisor may be the person who understands the goal of your research paper. They may have been in the industry longer than you and can link you with the right people in the field. You may be able to tap on your supervisor or research mentor’s existing network of contacts.

  1. Find a professional group.

There are many professional groups, and most of them already have an online presence where you can inquire about membership or just generally joining in to get information and exchange ideas. You can search through directories for local associations or groups where you can join and mingle with other like-minded researchers, or you can have a look online in platforms such as Linkedin or Meet-Up to discuss ideas and hear about frequently asked questions. The only downside to joining too many associations or groups is the overwhelming amount of information that you can get from them. So it is important to find the right groups or associations and vet them based on the members and the amount of dedication required from you to join.

  1. Attend seminars and conferences.

Face-to-face interactions are always one of the best and fastest ways to expand your network of contacts. Meeting people in person is also more memorable compared to speaking to someone over the phone or sending them an e-mail. Seminars and conferences may be minimal in one city, so opening up your options to travel to other seminars and conferences in other cities should also be in your agenda. Some of these meetings also provide funding to contribute towards your travel. Read our members’ stories about getting travel grants to attend conferences in South Korea and the UK.

  1. Talk to other professionals.

It’s important to network outside your academic circle. Not only will this give you the opportunity to pick the brains of individuals coming from the commercial and public sector, but it can also open our mind and possibly gain more connections which may be beneficial for your research study or your future career. Some areas in research, particularly medical research, require multidisciplinary approach to ensure the right approach to cure patients or prevent certain diseases.

  1. Request introductions to new contacts.

Now you have a web of sources while doing your research paper, don’t let the networking end there. Don’t be shy to ask your current contacts for introductions to other people. Most of the people you will meet have their own network of contacts. You need to work out your goals and see how each person can help you achieve these goals.

  1. Cold call.

Networking should not be limited only to the people you know and meet personally. If the topic you are researching on is highly technical, it may be hard for you to find enough references and sources in your own city or country, and you may find a good set of expertise from someone at the other side of the world. Don’t be shy to send a cold e-mail or pick up the phone and speak to someone in another part of the world – these might lead to opportunities to gain research experience in other countries.

These are only some advice which could help you build your network.  Just remember that when networking, you should always be prepared. First impressions last, and you wouldn’t want to give a mediocre first impression. Prepare a short spiel about yourself and the project you are working on. Also, find out what it is you are looking for. This way, it will be easier to create a conversation with someone, and you can create memorable encounters with people who may be your future partners or help you enhance your academic life while doing research.

Collaboration towards healthy ageing in Indonesia

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Professor Rebecca Hardy (MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at University College London; LHA UCL) and Dr Wahyu Wulaningsih (LHA UCL, PILAR) visited Faculty of Medicine, Universitas Gadjah Mada between May 1-5, 2017 to explore collaboration opportunities which involve the UK and Indonesia. This visit was funded by the UCL Global Engagement Fund and Faculty of Medicine, Universitas Gadjah Mada (FoM UGM).

Rebecca Hardy is a Professor in Epidemiology and Medical Statistics with over 20 years of

experience investigating how individual characteristics and our environment since birth, childhood, through adulthood that influence healthy ageing in later life. During the visit, she delivered a lecture at FoM UGM, in which she spoke to Indonesian students, clinicians and researchers about her experience in studying the process of ageing. Healthy ageing, according to Hardy, is not just about how long you live, or being free from disease, but also about functioning well in old age. Being able to care for oneself and participate in social activities, for instance, are part of healthy ageing.

A life course approach to study healthy ageing

Ageing is a complex process and starts from birth. To find out how we can achieve healthy ageing in old age, scientists have started to evaluate what events could influence the decline of bodily function as we age. In addition, it is necessary to tease out when precisely these events adversely influence the ageing process. For some events, an occurrence in adulthood may be less hazardous on one’s health compared to if they occur in childhood. This ‘life course’ approach can help policymakers and practitioners identify subgroups such as specific age groups in the population who are more susceptible to experience adverse effects of ageing in old age, and therefore, can inform precision prevention.

Insight into challenges in research in Indonesia

Hardy and Wulaningsih visited Sardjito Hospital to engage with clinicians and discuss important issues in lifelong health, such as childhood growth and development. They also took part in a workshop on academic writing for publication organised by FoM UGM at Swiss Bel-In Hotel in Solo, where they exchanged expertise and experience on getting their research published with local researchers. The workshop is particularly aimed to boost research productivity of local researchers, by providing them allotted time and space to fully concentrate on writing for publication. In this workshop, PILAR had a chance to administer a questionnaire about the experience in conducting research in Indonesia to the selected group of researchers. When being asked about what challenges they experience in conducting research in Indonesia, four among the fourteen local researchers mentioned the lack of funding and infrastructure or equipment as the main challenge. Three researchers pointed out difficulties with bureaucracy as the main challenge, with one of them said, “Sometimes we had problems in the bureaucracy when we make multidisciplinary research”. Other issues mentioned included the incompleteness of local data, time limitation, and language.

How to overcome these challenges to do research?

We also asked these researchers how they think these challenges should be addressed. Responses vary and included suggestions for changes at the national level such as improving policies and bureaucracy, with one of them mentioned that, “The national health research and development agency should be more open to researchers from academic institutions”. The remaining responses focused on solutions at individual level, for instance better research plan, communication and collaboration. One researcher in particular advised to “be innovative and be creative”.

What’s next?

A lack of infrastructure and funding is still a major challenge in research in Indonesia and perhaps other low- to middle-income countries. This visit and workshop are only the beginning of a budding international collaboration to improve healthy ageing in Indonesia. In near future, both universities aim to collaborate in research projects and to maintain knowledge exchange in the field of healthy ageing. We will keep reporting how this collaboration progresses. If you are interested to take part, get in touch with us.

Precision Medicine in Lower Middle Income Countries

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There has been a big amount of interest by stakeholders in the field of precision medicine compared to other medical studies in the past (Jama Network). Although a lot of funding has been allocated to this field, low-to-middle-income countries (LMICs) have not had the same amount of financial backing to develop proper research and development. Aside from financial barriers, LMICs have had minimal participation in the research because of other factors including lack of coherent national policies, limited number of well-trained scientists, poor research infrastructure, and local economic and cultural challenges (NCBI).  This is adding to the inequities in health and disparities in access to health care for patients in LMIC countries.

For example, if there is an estimated 234 million surgical procedures performed worldwide, only 4 percent of the poorest one-third of the world’s population undergoes such procedures. What is alarming is there is more surgical need per person in LMICs such as Africa and Southeast Asia compared to North and South America (Jama Network). Health inequities occur not only in surgery, but in maternal and neonatal health, chronic noncommunicable diseases, and cancer.

The health disparity between developed countries and LMICs are alarming. In one country, one person can die from a basic sickness such as diarrhea, while in another country, a patient can have enough financial backing to pay for a 1 year treatment of cystic fibrosis which costs approximately $300,000 (Jama Network).

Investing in Precision Medicine in LMICs

Since the introduction of precision medicine, research and development in the field has been progressing steadily. The research holds promise to improve the understanding of medicine and find ways to cure diseases at a global level. The ultimate goal is to improve the precision of the practice of medicine at individual levels and to inform and educate public health bodies.

Research and development in precision medicine presents a tremendous promise for LMICs because at this time, morbidity and mortality cost of common diseases is disproportionally high. Therefore, an early investment into genomic research has a big potential for returning long-term benefits.

For an LMIC to have a functional precision medicine program, there needs to be investment in biotechnology. There also needs to be a pool of trained medical geneticists, genetic counselors, genetic epidemiologists, bioinformaticians and computational biologists (NCBI).

At a legislative level, LMIC governments should begin to develop national policies that will address human and technology capacity development within the context of their national economic and socio-cultural uniqueness (NCBI). In parallel, an ethical and legal framework needs to be established to protect the confidential information of the patients. The policies curated by the governmental bodies should encourage international collaboration and promote links between public health programs and researchers.

LMIC’s can maximize the impact of available resources by sharing resources and pooling funds to enhance the research results. There needs to be a push from the different government agencies, the private sector, educational institutions and philanthropists. A more robust engagement of LMICs in research and technological innovations will enable these countries to gain the benefits of the discoveries and improve the health of the population.

The importance of promoting healthy ageing: An experience from the Global Ageing Conference

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Zakia Fitriani, a clinician and research assistant in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, recently won a prestigious Travel Bursary Prize to attend Global Ageing: Challenges and Opportunities Conference organized by the Royal Society of Medicine in London, UK. Below is Zakia’s story about her experience from preparing the application to attending the conference which took place 24-25 April 2017.

I heard information about this event from  one of PILAR’s team, Ms Wahyu Wulaningsih. I am currently working in primary healthcare clinic in Yogyakarta, Indonesia and as a research assistant in the Internal Medicine Department of Gadjah Mada University. During my practice, I meet patients with chronic illnesses and from that, I've learned that in parallel to the increase of aging population in Yogyakarta, there are reports of increased prevalence of chronic/degenerative diseases in the region.

I found the title of the event matched the situation in clinic, so I decided to submit an essay to get the travel bursary offering. I was required to write a 500-words essay outlining why I should attend the event and the impact it has on my job. In my essay, I included data from government sources about the chronic/degenerative diseases problem in Yogyakarta.

However, I found difficulties aligning the idea and using proper words for the essay. I decided to contact Ms Wahyu Wulaningsih and she helped me develop  my idea into a good essay. While waiting for the announcement, I was so happy to find out that I was one of the winners of the travel bursary prize.

The Global Ageing Conference

      The Royal Society of Medicine in London         

The purpose of the conference was to promote healthy ageing i.e to develop and maintain functional ability so elderly people can maintain a good quality of life. The event was held in Royal Society of Medicine, Wimpole Street, London. There were around 100 attendees, with carefully selected Speakers who were the best in their field. The Speakers for the event were Researchers and Decision Makers whom I never imagined to meet in person. The audience ranged from undergraduate students, PhD Students to retired specialist doctors from different parts of the world.

The keynote speaker of the event was Mr. B. Sethia, the President of Royal Society of Medicine. Day one topics discussed about the concept of ageing, the social care, barriers to pain and chronic disease therapy access, and retirement age issues. By the end of day one, I joined a workshop discussion about the ethical issues in end of life care and mental health in cities with ageing societies. The day two topics discussed dementia research. It ended with a panel discussion about global approach to ageing, HIV, and war conflict.

With Professor Karen Glaser, Head of Department, Global Health & Social Medicine, King's College London

Even though the ageing population is not homogeny in every place, I learned that for the first time in human history, the number of people older than 65 will soon be greater than those under age five. Indonesia being one of the less developed countries in the world will soon face an increasing ageing population compared to other countries. To overcome this, we need to identify factors and have preventative measures in place. To do so, the government must ensure that there is appropriate funding, a proper healthcare system and health campaigns targeted to the aged.

One of main issues of ageing people’s health is dementia. Dementia has a health, social, and economic impact in different parts of the world and dementia prevalence increases rapidly in less developed countries. Almost 99 percent of dementia treatments fail.

There are several types and risk factors of dementia that effects dementia management/therapy but the recent issue is the possibility to use gene therapy based approaches as the new tools for neurodegenerative disorder.

In order to contribute and promote healthy ageing, we need to combat the stereotypes and discriminations against the ageing population (ageism).  We should educate patients to overcome the stigma of seeing multi-morbidity as a part of “normal” ageing. We must identify risk factors and prevent chronic/degenerative disease to ensure the wellbeing of the ageing population. The government should prioritize policies for better health (physical and mental systems) and create an ageing-friendly living environment. With better education and a healthier ageing population, the countries can benefit from extended working lives.

It is never too early or too late to promote healthy ageing!

From volunteer statistician to presenting in a research conference

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Sam Marc, a volunteer statistician for Pilar was selected to present his research paper in the 5th Seoul International Conference of Endocrinology and Metabolism (SICEM). His project aims to discover whether there is a correlation among collaboration, funding with government, non-partisan and academic institutions to Indonesian institutions and research output, particularly in the field of diabetes and endocrinology. Read about his journey here.

For all opportunities that landed on my lap this year, I could say that my collaboration with PILAR is one that I should be thankful for, for it unraveled the wonders in working in research and writing, one I grew interest doing. I’ve never imagined that I could step out of the outskirts of the economics profession and work with the medical experts. I did not also expect that heeding the call of PILAR for becoming a volunteer statistician will land me to one of my favorite places in the world, South Korea, to present the paper before the medical audience in a conference there. Truly, this partnership I had in this project with PILAR is one in my books.

But what is this project about? As I mentioned earlier, I volunteered to become a statistician to one of PILAR’s advocacies. This project aims to discover whether there is a correlation among collaboration, funding with government, non-partisan and academic institutions to Indonesian institutions and research output, particularly in the field of diabetes and endocrinology. This project fully utilized my potential earned in economics and applied to our study. Headed by Dr. Wahyu Wulaningsih, she asked me to mine data from the Internet, to verify the linkages existing among international and Indonesian individuals and institutions and finally used what I mined to analyze data through statistics, which took me a couple of months.

I thought my contribution to PILAR’s study concluded when I finally submitted the until Wahyu decided to try our “luck” to have our paper screened for the inclusion in the 5th Seoul International Conference of Endocrinology and Metabolism (SICEM), which was held this April. A bit hesitant though, because of my erring schedule, my almost nil experience in research presentations before the public and becoming the principal author for the study even though I only got minor participation, I still tried to send an entry before the conference’s panel for their thorough review. I said to myself, qualified or not, I am submitting the group’s paper just for the sake of having experience to be exposed before the audience who are knowledgeable in research, something that I’m really looking forward to.

After a month, I received an email from the conference organizers notifying me that our project displayed scientific rigor and will be displayed in a two-day poster presentation in South Korea, all expenses paid. A concoction of emotions is what I felt instantly. First is I felt grateful, because the team’s hard work was recognized. I also felt a bit reluctant, because of being a neophyte in public research conference, the interaction that might take place when I will be meeting a medical professional, and the pressure of becoming the principal author for our study. But what weighs the most is that I will gain experience when I get there and the happiness to immerse myself in South Korean culture and lifestyle.

True enough, fear and reluctance were outweighed by the eagerness to be exposed in such activities I had never experienced before. While all in the conference, especially in oral presentations, served only as a "nice to know" information for me, being all of the research topics are too profound an economist can decipher, I also got the chance to mingle with other people and get to know also Filipinos who are also there in the conference crowd. I also got to appreciate how research conference works, and maybe apply on how can I present my research paper in case my profession calls me to do so. In between presentations, I also savored a quick but satisfying taste of Korean living and I get to meet a few Koreans that we are able to talk about life and maintain friendship through social media accounts.

For this great ride I’ve experienced, I’d like to extend my sincere gratitude to PILAR, especially to Dr. Wahyu Wulaningsih, for being so accommodating for every query that I have in the process of making the paper up to my travel concerns in Korea, patience to understand my schedule, and the wisdom imparted in dealing scientifically with data. If there is another chance, and ample time, I would really like to collaborate again with PILAR. It gave me not only recognition, through participating in SICEM, but also being proud that I have contributed somehow to the betterment of the medical professions through the study I have collaborated with them.

Genetic Testing for Cancer in Asia

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For a medical physician to understand the treatment options for a genetic condition, or the probability of an individual developing a particular disease based on their genetic makeup, the person has to go through laboratory procedures and genetic tests to see if there are any symptoms that portray a particular condition or susceptibility (Genetics Home Reference).

Cancer genetic testing is now a well-known oncology subspecialty with the main goal of identifying high-risk individuals through their genetics. There are several types of technologies used to gauge the presence or absence of certain genetic variants in cells, with tests being available for breast, ovarian, colon, thyroid, and some other cancers.

Many patients can take advantage of genetic testing to find out if they are at risk of developing a particular disease. Patients can then take preventative measures. For some cancers though, research has fallen short in identifying mutations especially as it relates to certain racial or ethnic backgrounds (Journal of Clinical Oncology).

In the Philippines for example, the delivery of medical genetic services remains a challenge for both public and private sectors. Despite the health indices in the country showing recent improvements, there is a lack of geneticists and genetic counsellors to serve patients across the different islands (Journal of Community Genetics).

In Asia, there are a few factors affecting the growth of genetic testing. Aside from the high costs associated with genetic tests, many of the results have been called into question due to a lack of credible standard procedures (Market Data Forecast). There has also been a ban on genetic testing in Asia (except for South Korea and Israel) for insurance purposes, with no specific stances taken.

For genetic testing to be more effective and more affordable for patients, there needs to be a greater focus on medical research. The different racial and ethnic groups in the region need to be educated about the possibilities of a cure for certain cancers. By increasing their knowledge on genetic testing, they may be more confident to seek and undergo genetic testing. Investing more care for those who have a higher risk of positive genetic test results may also incentivize individuals to seek testing.

Private companies and non-profit organizations should take the initiative to help bridge the health science research gap in Asia. 

If more research students or doctors want to do research studies in the Philippines, PILAR will assist in funding and connecting them to the right mentors. To connect with PILAR, click to contact us here.

 

 

Research Strengthening: Why Filipinos should be given more opportunities to do health and medical research

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Dr Don Eliseo Lucero-Prisno III is an Associate Professor of Public Health at the Department of Public Health of Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (XJTLU). Before joining XJTLU, he was with the Master of Public Health (MPH) Programme of the Department of Public Health and Policy of the University of Liverpool (UoL) in the UK since 2009 where he remains as Honorary Lecturer of Public Health until the present. He is also affiliated with the Faculty of Management and Development Studies of the University of the Philippines (Open University) as Senior Lecturer in International Health, a Research Fellow of Medical Research in International Health of the Centre for International Health of the Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU) in Munich, Germany and a Research Associate Fellow of Cardiff University in Wales.  Don has published in the fields of global health and public health in scientific journals and has authored five book chapters. He is a member of many international organizations, working groups and committees.  He is a sough-after speaker and has been invited to deliver presentations in numerous conferences, meetings, trainings and guest lectures all over the world.  He is a global leader in empowering individuals to become critical thinkers and leaders in global health through his popular global health courses that have been delivered in many parts of Asia, Africa and Europe.  His work has been recognised through a number of international awards including the prestigious Global Health Promotion Practice Award by the International Union for Health Promotion and Education (IUHPE) and the World Health Organization (WHO) and The Outstanding Young Man (TOYM) in Global Health by the President of the Philippines.

  1. Can you briefly describe your research interests?

I am in the fields of global health and public health.  I am particularly interested in health systems and policy and the social determinants of health particularly access of marginalized and poor populations.

  1. What made you decide to do research in this field?

It is based on what I went through in life.  Coming from a very poor background, it made me think how people who do not have resources and opportunities have the same access as those who have.  The dynamics that surround this phenomenon is an interesting field for me--from the global determinants to the immediate ones.  It was incumbent upon me to understand and investigate and find the answers and solutions.

  1. Would you recommend research/research degrees and why?

I would highly recommend having research degrees as they provide a solid and strong foundation to any field of study and inquiry.  One gets to have a better understanding of the approaches and how they innovate these approaches to have a better way of producing evidence.  Of course having a degree is just a start.  Using them continuously makes one a seasoned researcher.

  1. Can you briefly describe your journey to your current position in research?

While I was in my bachelor days, I already had an inkling to get into research as it fascinated me.  It started with my bachelor days when we had research methods modules and actual research plans and projects.  The numbers we played around with was a fascinating stuff to answer unique problems.  As I went through my MD I did research electives.  I even worked for a research center in the middle of my medical school.  And every time I study masters, of which I have two (MPH and MSc) I was always fascinated with reading research articles.  So I try to hone myself with methods by doing a diploma in research methods.  Obviously the PhD is the ultimate degree which made me become an independent researcher.  Until I got to develop many linkages and many awards, which made me feel confident and fulfilled with what I am doing.

  1. What advice would you have for Filipinos embarking or thinking of embarking on a career in research?

To be able to produce evidence that would translate to policy and practice is a noble and fulfilling career as it impacts lives of people.  There are many opportunities that would lead one to while doing research.  This is what many people do not understand.  Thus Filipinos should start embracing this endeavor by providing themselves with the proper mindset and skills.  The rest will follow.

  1. What are the principal differences between research in the UK/China and the Philippines with respect to opportunity?

Funding is a major factor in any research environment.  As there are more research funding opportunities in the UK and China, research thrives better in these environments.  In the developing world like the Philippines this is a major challenge.  Thus we do not see many researchers.  A proper and effective national framework should be in place to enable research strengthening.  These are in different fronts--policy, funding, institutions, education, and incentives to name a few.

  1. Two of PILAR's goals are to a) raise awareness of the research culture in places like the UK and the resulting benefits; and b) provide Filipinos with opportunities to do research. What kind of initiatives would incentivise you to stay in the Philippines and have a research career there?

There are many reasons to stay in the Philippines to work in the field of research as it is rife with many determinants of health.  I work more in the developing world which is the central in the study of public health and global health.  Strong international collaborations will not isolate researchers from the developing world such as the Philippines thus a good approach to keep them in their countries.  Research funding and better incentives such as salaries would be another approach.  This would include recognition.  Research appreciation should start at the grassroots level and from a young age.