Doctors paid to advice, promote drug companies that fund their research

Research has been seen as less objectionable than other forms of interactions with drug companies, but 10 percent of researchers have multiple ties among the nine companies ProPublica analysed. That raises questions about doctors’ impartiality

Pharmaceutical companies pay for the clinical trials that Dr. Yoav Golan conducts on antibiotics at Tufts Medical Center.

They also pay him tens of thousands of dollars a year to give speeches and advice on behalf of their drugs.

If Golan worked at some teaching hospitals, he would be barred or severely restricted from accepting both research funding and personal payments for promotional speaking or consulting from drug makers. These hospitals fear the money could influence clinical findings, or at least create the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Yet Tufts and many other academic medical centers allow doctors to accept overlapping payments — and some doctors still take them.

A ProPublica analysis shows that more than 1,300 practitioners nationwide received both research money and speaking or consulting fees from the same drug maker in 2012. All told, they received more than $90 million in research grants — plus nearly $13 million for speaking engagements and another $4 million for consulting.

Critics say doctors who conduct a clinical trial while accepting personal payments from the company sponsoring the study can feel beholden to the drug maker.

“The pharmaceutical company has a paramount stake in a favorable outcome. The [research] grant recipient has a stake in a favorable outcome and the honorarium recipient or consultant has yet another stake in the outcome,” said David Rothman, director of the Center for Medicine as a Profession at Columbia University. “It’s not only my lab. It’s my mortgage.”

ProPublica used its Dollars for Docs database, which tracks payments to practitioners by 15 drug companies, to conduct the review. Not every company discloses all types of payments — research, speaking and consulting — or distinguishes between the types. The analysis covered the nine companies that disclosed payments in this form.

Golan, an infectious disease specialist, was the only doctor who received speaking, consulting, and research payments from three companies in 2012, the most recent year for which data has been compiled. Pfizer, Merck, and Forest Labs gave Tufts $51,000 for his research that year, in addition to paying him $125,000 to speak about their drugs and $13,000 for consulting. His speaking fees ranked second nationally among all the researchers examined, and his total personal payments ranked fourth.

Golan referred questions to the public relations department at Tufts Medical Center, which said in a statement that Golan complies with its research conflict-of-interest policy and that officials keep a close watch over his work.

“Dr. Golan’s work has contributed to the development of two important antibiotics, including the first antibiotic developed in the past 25 years to treat the growing threat of deadly C. difficile,” the statement said.

Pharmaceutical companies’ payments for promotional speaking and consulting appear to have decreased in recent years, as blockbuster drugs have lost patent protection and the push for transparency has advanced. Beginning this fall, all drug companies will have to publicly disclose payments they made to doctors, under the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

But industry-backed clinical studies, which can lead to advances in care, have largely been seen as a separate matter.

ProPublica’s is the first large-scale analysis of how frequently researchers receive additional payments from companies that fund their clinical trials. About 10 percent of researchers for the nine companies examined for this story also received money for speaking or consulting, or both.

One Doctor’s Overlapping Relationships
Dr. Yoav Golan, an infectious disease specialist at Tufts Medical Center, received speaking, consulting and research payments from three companies in 2012, the only physician in ProPublica’s Dollars for Docs database that met those criteria. Some ethicists question doctors’ abilities to stay impartial when receiving both research and promotional payments from pharmaceutical companies.


 Forest Labs
























Source: Company disclosures, ProPublica research

Pfizer had the lowest rate of dual relationships among its researchers, about 7 percent; Novartis and ViiV Healthcare had the highest, at more than 15 percent.

ViiV spokesman Marc Meachem said his company focuses exclusively on HIV medications, so “the number of people with the expertise to do both the research and be expert speakers is a lot smaller.”

In a statement, Novartis said it abides by the policies of different academic institutions, and requires doctors it works with to receive permission, if needed, from their employers.

The Mayo Clinic and University of California San Francisco prohibit employees from receiving personal compensation from companies that concurrently fund their research. Harvard allows doctors to take no more than $10,000 annually in personal income from companies funding their research.

“It’s such an enormous conflict of interest to have personal financial gain from the company that’s sponsoring a clinical trial on human subjects that you’re the principal investigator on,” said Lisa Bero, a professor of pharmacy at UC San Francisco who chaired its conflict of interest committee from 1999 to 2010.

Tufts University School of Medicine does not bar overlapping payments, but has a policy banning faculty members from speaking for a pharmaceutical company if “the company controls the content of the presentation, which may include creating or having final approval over the slides or presentation materials or setting limits on the scope of discussion.”

Researcher Funding by Company


All researchers

Researchers with at least one speaking or consulting payment










Eli Lilly




























Source: Company disclosures, ProPublica research

The companies that employ Golan as a speaker say they do create and have final approval of any materials used, but because he is an unpaid “volunteer faculty member” at the medical school by virtue of his hospital job, its rules don’t apply to him, a spokeswoman said. Tufts Medical Center requires only that doctors agree that the slides provided by companies for their lectures are scientifically accurate; Golan’s slides are reviewed by his department chairman as well.

Beyond his work for Pfizer, Merck, and Forest, Golan has reported receiving research, consulting, and speaking payments from Cubist Pharmaceuticals of Lexington. He co-wrote a 2011 research study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, about the antibiotic Dificid with employees of its maker, Optimer Pharmaceuticals — a company purchased by Cubist last fall.

According to the most recent disclosure statement Golan submitted to Tufts Medical Center, covering the 12 months before March 4, 2014, Golan said he received a total of $260,000 to $359,995 in salary, speaking, consulting (and some travel) fees from Forest, Merck, Pfizer, Optimer, and Cubist. That does not include grants for research and is on top of what he earns for treating patients, according to Tufts which provided the data to ProPublica.

Tufts Medical Center said it has a committee with the authority to bar doctors from accepting additional payments from companies that fund their research if panel members conclude there’s no other way to mitigate the conflict of interest.

Instead, hospital officials have put Golan under a “rigorous management plan to ensure the research is done in a transparent and ethical manner, including meetings between Dr. Golan and a committee of research and physician leaders every six months to review his research and any changes in his relationship with industry,” the center said in a statement.

Ethicists and experts on conflicts of interest say overlapping payments can give researchers an incentive to bend or break the rules, sometimes in ways they aren’t even aware of. They note that published research supported by pharmaceutical companies tends to be more favorable to the drugs being studied than research funded by other sources.

Some questioned whether it was possible to balance a commitment to research with outside work for pharmaceutical companies.

“I would argue that any academic that has the time to be a part-time drug salesman needs to have a talk with their department chair right away about how they’re spending their time,” said Eric Campbell, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School who studies the topic. “If doctors want to be drug salespersons, they should go to be drug salespersons.”

Not every doctor who accepts research and promotional money is an academic. Some work for hospitals not tied to universities; others run their own clinical trial centers, and others are solo practitioners.

Dr. Andrew Wachtel is co-director of a research group called the Southern California Institute for Respiratory Diseases. He practices at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, but said he is not employed by the hospital. While conducting research for Merck, GlaxoSmithKline and Forest Labs, he received nearly $110,000 in 2012 for speaking on behalf of their products (the vast majority was from Forest).

“If I was doing research and speaking exclusively for one company that might be construed as a conflict, and it is potentially a conflict,” he said. Working with multiple companies, he added, shows “I don’t have a personal gain by promoting one over the other.”

Still, Wachtel said that if he were given the choice between research and speaking, he would choose research. “I would just stop lecturing. It’s not a huge part of what I do or that big a deal.”


Dual relationships have come under scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators in the past. In 2009, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) asked the National Institutes of Health to investigate university physicians who were paid by Merck to work on a campaign for the cholesterol drug Vytorin even though an internal study had showed it was no more effective than cheaper drugs. The relationships were first reported by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Grassley raised particular concerns about Baylor College of Medicine, which didn’t tell the NIH that one of its researchers, Dr. Christie M. Ballantyne, had accepted $34,000 from Merck to consult about Vytorin while also receiving money from the NIH to study cholesterol-lowering therapies.

NIH director Francis Collins told Grassley in a letter that while Ballantyne had followed the rules and notified Baylor, the institution had not shared the information with NIH as it should have.

Even after Baylor said it tightened its practices, Ballantyne’s work with Merck continued. In 2012, ProPublica data shows, Ballantyne received speaking and consulting money from Merck while conducting research on the company’s behalf. Merck data shows he received $11,000 as a speaker and $7,175 as a consultant in 2013 as well.

Ballantyne said in an email that he is no longer participating in speakers’ programs because companies insist on having the final say on the slides used. “The position of the companies is clearly not consistent with the position taken by our medical school, and most other medical schools, so academic physicians almost never participate in speakers bureaus,” he wrote.

Baylor spokeswoman Lori Williams said Ballantyne spoke internationally on behalf of Merck in 2012 and 2013 and used his own slides, which did not violate Baylor’s rules.

Ballantyne wrote that he does not see a conflict in continuing to work as a consultant for companies that support his research. “I consult for companies because I have expertise that I hope may help in the search for new therapies. Research saves lives. I participated in a clinical trial when I was treated with lymphoma. If I had been diagnosed 50 years ago I would have lived less than 6 months.”

Ballantyne was one of several Baylor faculty members who received speaking or consulting payments in 2012 from companies that fund their research.

Baylor’s senior vice president of research, Dr. Adam Kuspa, said the school stepped up its review of research conflicts after the NIH findings. He said faculty are not permitted to serve as company speakers if a drug maker retains final approval of slides, but can spend up to 20 percent of their time on consulting.

Kuspa cautioned against going too far to regulate payments to doctors. “You certainly wouldn’t want people who didn’t know anything about the drugs consulting about what Pfizer’s doing in that area,” he said.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the industry trade group, said it sees benefits in doctors working with companies in multiple roles. A company could hire a researcher overseeing a clinical trial, for example, to consult with other trial sites about patient recruitment or to speak about new uses for drugs being studied, officials said.

Kendra Martello, PhRMA’s deputy vice president of strategic operations, said research integrity is protected by institutional review boards, which are appointed by hospitals to approve the design of studies and patient consent forms, as well as by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as part of the drug approval process.

Massachusetts has taken a harder line than most states on doctors’ conflicts of interest. For a time, it banned meals to physicians. The state requires all pharmaceutical companies to disclose payments to Massachusetts doctors, though not for research, and posts the information online.

Policies at academic medical centers in Massachusetts differ. While Harvard caps the outside income of researchers, UMass Memorial Medical Center, Tufts Medical Center, and Boston University do not. They require researchers to disclose dual relationships internally but do not limit them as a rule.

Even so, John Randolph, vice president and chief compliance officer of UMass Memorial Health Care, said his conflict-of-interest committee rarely allows researchers much leeway.

“We are very conservative about it,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve allowed any faculty member to have a relationship like this where we’ve approved greater than $5,000 of activity from the same company — and that was only in the situation where the research and the consulting were in completely different areas of the company.”

ProPublica news applications fellow Eric Sagara contributed to this report.



Agriculture turning into nightmare for small farmers

India, the world’s second largest food producer, is witnessing growing distress and declining confidence in agriculture as most small and landless farmers, with less of a stake, are found to quit farming

The recent unseasonal heavy rains, thunder and hailstorms originating from unusually intense western disturbances from the Mediterranean interacting with the south-easterly winds from the Bay of Bengal have ravaged the due-for-harvesting chana, lentils and wheat in Madhya Pradesh, mustard in Rajasthan and onions and grapes in Maharashtra. Instead of an expected bumper harvest on the back of excellent monsoons, farmers reaped only misery.

Compounding it is the Model Election Code of Conduct stopping any relief for months.  It is well acknowledged that our agriculture is inherently risk-prone by being highly susceptible to weather vagaries. According to a nationwide survey, 70% of over 5,000 households polled, reported crop damage in the last three years and the present National Agricultural Insurance Scheme cover is far too inadequate.  

India, the world’s second largest food producer is witnessing growing distress and declining confidence in agriculture. Most small and landless farmers with less of a stake are found to quit farming. Sharad Pawar, union minister for Agriculture blames the highly fragmented small holdings for making agriculture economically unviable.

Our Food Security is heading for an alarming toss going by the grim statistics in a Bharat Krishak Samaj commissioned survey on ‘The State of the Indian Farmer’ -

  • Agriculturists willing to quit farming to move to cities 62%,
  • Farmers who don’t see future for children in farming, preferring higher education and settle in towns 60%,
  • Youth keen on continuing farming constituted only 20%.

Mere holistic fixes like subsidies, procurement policies, minimum support prices (MSP) have been failures, loan waivers have not served their purpose as the prices obtained by the farmers are far below those charged to the ultimate urban consumers.

More of softer infrastructure for the rural population like better education,  good primary health care, decent sanitation, clean drinking water, check dams ring and bore wells,  constant power supply  to run them are the need of the hour in addition to better road connectivity.

Interestingly, the survey, reiterated the best kept of secrets of the benefits of the Governments’ farmer-related schemes are invariably availed only by few rich farmers to the detriment of many few.

The loan repayment and interest waiver schemes don’t benefit the many poor who have availed credit by borrowing from the money lenders at usurious rates of interest leading to suicides. The large and rich farmers borrowing from commercial and co-operative institutions abuse these facilities.

The Chief Minister of Rajasthan, on record had stated that the NREGA Scheme has been making the farm labour ‘lazy’ by enabling them to collect money from government project work that drive them all away from farming.

The major concerns faced by the agricultural sector in India as mentioned by Dr Bharat Jhunjhunwala, in an article published by Daily Excelsior are-

Structural limitations in earnings from agriculture - even for an area of 10 hectares make it impossible to invest beyond two tube wells and one tractor.

Income from agriculture is limited essentially because the investment cannot be upped.

An average Indian farmer, with even large pieces of lands, is hard pressed to produce even Rs10 lakh worth crops.

When one hundred software engineers working out of urban building can turn out software worth many more crores, the same number of farmers can’t turn out the same from labour.

America exports large quantities of food grains and fruits like Californian apples and Washington apples to India even with less than 1% of the population engaged in agriculture.

For our planners it is more cost-effective to provide cheaper power, water, roads and sanitation to urban areas than to the rural areas.

In a study of the Water Policy of Rajasthan, it was found that the cost of reaching drinking water to rural communities was a whopping 10 times more than to the cities because of the need to lay new, longer water lines, much breakage and leakages in rural areas.

It is far less costly to provide 10 MW of power to a single urban high-rise while hundreds of kilometres of power cables has got to be laid for the same electricity supply to villages. 

In rural areas it is well-nigh impossible to recover user charges as it is compounded with high transmission and distribution losses (T&D losses) arising out of unauthorised direct pole connections that are thefts.

The absence of sustained and regular passenger traffic makes bus services to villages sporadic simply because there is not enough traffic to make trips economically viable.

Quality of education suffers because the required large numbers of students are just not available. Living conditions are not conducive also hamper good teaching talent.

Similar bad conditions equally apply to health and sanitation services.

The many rural development programmes laid out by the government fail to take off purely on economic grounds - industries can flourish where the costs for transporting raw materials and finished products are minimum. It is far cheaper to procure from farms and transport raw cane even by bullock carts and tractors to the sugar factories in the hinterlands of Maharashtra.

Flour mills have moved to the larger metros because of ease and relatively lower costs of transporting raw wheat and finished flour. The same applies to weaving.

The power situation in rural India is abysmal. The relatively more regular supply of power, availability of skilled and semi-skilled labour and easier access to markets makes metros a choice.

The rural non-tax paying rich elite also choose to migrate to the metros for their glamour and proximity to centres of power, especially the state capitals. This is despite the fact that they build jazzy farm houses/bungalows guzzling millions of gallons of scarce water in drought hit areas.

(Nagesh Kini is a Mumbai based chartered accountant turned activist.)



Yerram Raju Behara

3 years ago

SF, MF and AL as also lease holders suffer most in times of stress because of faulty social security systems and the retrograde policies of the Governments coupled with poor governance. I have therefore called for special attention from all the political parties who have politicised the farm sector enough and who milked the sector. Farming created wealth but farmers are in distress and commit suicides. See my demands for the farm sector.
Manifesto for Agricultural Sector: Agenda for Future from the Farm & Rural Science Foundation, Hyderabad.
‘If farming fails nothing else succeeds in this country.’ Economic growth of this predominantly agrarian country depends on agricultural growth.
Target 6% growth of farm sector for an assured double digit sustainable growth of the economy.
Allocate Budget – at least 10% of the outlay should be devoted for agricultural sector.
Present Agricultural Budget in all the predominantly agricultural States preceded by Agricultural Survey.
Public Expenditure for farming should be significantly scaled up to cover the agri-related infrastructure, soil health management with localized soil mapping and solution matrix within the knowledge of the farmers and soil clinics widely dispersed and ICT solutions.
Targets to setting up bio-villages to take biotechnology closer to the farmers should be spelt out annually in the Agricultural Budget with allocable resources and monitoring mechanisms.
MNREGS should be linked with farming activity through a Voucher system administered by the Gram Panchayat where 75% of the wages would come through MNREGS and 25% from the farmer during the guaranteed 150 days of work under the scheme.
Direct cash subsidy shall be introduced for inputs and machinery.
Introduce certification courses in agricultural disciplines both online and offline – Agricultural, Horticultural and Veterinary Universities should work out such courses to develop skilled force in the villages, enrolling students after Tenth standard, akin to paramedical services.
Set up Disaster Mitigation Fund to engineer write-off of interest and principal amount of loan depending on the nature and intensity of the disaster.
Weather Insurance shall be provided by the Government – both the State and Central Governments should share equally the related premium.
Crop Insurance should be refined to make the claim process more transparent.
Set up an empowered Coordinated Forum for Farm Policy and Implementation at the State level and District Levels with participation from the Farmers’ Associations to free the farmer from the bondage of fifteen Ministries governing agriculture.
Rain-fed agriculture occupying nearly 60% of arable lands, it is eclipsed by the ineffective policy interventions and poor monitoring mechanisms. It is important that micro irrigation, tank desilting and protection of all lakes from any encroachments, specific cropping and credit plans need aggressive implementation drive with farmers’ associations’ involvement.
Since 82% of the holdings are with small and marginal farmers, ensure credit to at least 50% of them through Agricultural Credit Monitoring Mechanism under priority sector dispensation in terms of number of new accounts accessed within the next two years and to reach 75% in the subsequent two years through the Kisan Credit Card linkage with Rupiya/Master/VISA. There should be only two accounts for the farmer – one for investment credit and the other for short term expenses with outflow to get linked only through KCC comprehensive credit limit.
Interest subsidy should be credited online direct to the farmers’ accounts with the help of ICT solutions.
Computerisation of all Agricultural market yards should be done with the help of Agri-Infrastructure Bonds. Spot markets should be set up in all such markets with the help of MCX or NCDX to enable farmers’ price discovery. All the AMYs should have multi-level storage and cold storage facilities or should be tied up with the accredited warehouses.
Warehouse receipt financing at the doorstep of the facility should be available at the hands of the financing institutions.
De-bond the Agriculural Market Yards from the clutches of market wolves by instituting governance practices with only farmers’ participation. No person with political party affiliation should be heading these Market Yards.
Elections to the Market Yard Committees, PACS and Water Users Societies should be held by the State Election Commission once in every five years and the contestants should be independent of political affiliations.
97th Amendment to the Constitution Act 2011 should be implemented.
Farmers should
Social Security of farmers should be provided through:-
1. Pension of Rs.3000 for farmer family from the age of 60 of the farmer for all the small and marginal farmers, tenant farmers and women farmers, for which purpose the farmer should contribute 2% of the sale produce of the farm product – agriculture per se, animal husbandry, poultry, fisheries, bee-keeping, sericulture etc.- with matching contribution from the State Government through the National Pension Scheme.
2. Health Insurance of all these farmers shall be provided both through the existing schemes like Arogya Sree/Kutumba Sree etc.,, and through contributory premium from the farmer at 2%. Farmers’ participation would give him the right to claim the legitimate services and would not leave him to the mercy of the state government.
3. Women farm labour should be paid equal with their male counterparts for all activities on the farm.

Gyanendra Shukla

3 years ago

Empower farmers - give then reasonable credit access, provide risk cover, give them modern seeds, provide soil and water based advisory, create market with few intermediaries and see the magic! INCOME WILL GROW, FARMER WILL MOVE BACK TO FARMS & INDA WILL BECOME SUPPLIER OF FOOD TO THE WORLD!


3 years ago

Had the farmers been not so kind on the country (by not going on strike after all they are put through) they would have got a solution by now.

A strike of just 3 years (after keeping aside the food grains them and their dependents require) would have given them a permanent solution.

I think we as a country shouldn’t be so ungrateful so as to rouse them on a strike some day.

Nalin Patel

3 years ago

rural poverty is not same as urban poverty, min rural people grow their own food, in urban they grow not, any employment pay is more sort of saving for rural not so for urban poor, the rural farmer is too smart, they do not disclose correct area irrigated, they declare less irrigated land, and the irrigation clerk is hand in glove, they also collect ration at lower rate, they do not pay any income tax, they have lot many FDs on which they do not pay tax, so it is a myth that rural folks are un-educated and honest, they steal crop electricity and no water charges.

Ramesh Jaradhara

3 years ago

The woes of Indian agriculture is unlimited. The main hindrance is too fragmented land holding. If we observe the system in the US, the main advantage for them is the large size farm lands facilitating use of technology at minimum average cost.We can replicate it with our Indian modified version.Conversion of fragmented farm lands into a large size farms by forming corporates taking tenants as shareholders on profit sharing basis.Public-private partnership will be a good proposition for raising required capital.Money invested in numerous schemes intended for poverty alleviation could be use for this purpose.This cannot be done in one or two plan period. But once started it will fetch desired result on sustainable basis.There seems to be no other way around to make Indian agriculture the base of Indian economy as world class. Capital is not a stumbling block in this direction if the intention and attitude is right.

Gopalakrishnan T V

3 years ago

When even For honest and innocent people the very living is becoming nightmare, the plight of poor farmers are imaginable and pathetic. We can only sympathesie with them.

Philosophy of education

The matters in our burgeoning private universities would even make the angels weep. God save education and the country!

“Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.”
                                                                                     -Robert Frost


There is a craze for Western type of English medium education. Firstly, those students become cocooned in a shell far removed from the millions of their peers who cannot afford such education! They develop a holier than thou attitude towards the other sections of society. They truly believe that those who did not go to such elite schools are lesser mortals who are incapable of joining their elite club. Such individuals demean others who have not been to such institutions little realising that some of the great thinkers of this country had no idea about those institutions. 

In fact, those who came up the hard way in life are best suited to rule this country as they have experienced poverty personally to know where it pinches and how to alleviate poverty.

A study in the US showed how the Ivy League institutes are churning out mediocre students at the tax payers’ cost. In an article entitled “Close Harvard to save America", an economics professor in Ohio has shown how these elite institutions are being favoured by the tax authorities. Giving an example the professor shows how five of those institutions in the last one year collected $one billion in endowment funds on which they do not pay income tax. Neither do they pay income tax on their huge endowment fund fixed deposit interests while the ordinary citizen pays nearly 25% of his income in taxes from which the government has to fund hundreds of state colleges which educate almost 75% of the country's students.  The latter also give scholarships to the poorest of the poor to the tune of 75 %.

The following paragraph from the same economics professor at Ohio University tells it all: “A student graduating from Yale or Princeton, with their roughly $2 million endowments per student, has a ticket to a well-paying job, while one graduating from the College of St. Joseph in Vermont, with its $29,000 endowment per student, does not. Only 12 percent of the Yale and Princeton students have Pells, compared with 71 percent at St. Joseph. (Pells refer to US Federal govt.) Pell Grant is a post-secondary educational Federal grant sponsored by the U.S Department of Education-enacted to help undergraduates of low-income families in receiving financial aid." The difference between elite and non-elite/commoner colleges in the USA seems to be stark.”

Perhaps if somebody does (or has done) a similar comparison in India the difference between elite and non-elite college education would be similar. The people who give large endowments do not do it for nothing. They have an eye on seats for their progeny and friends in the long run. This breeds mediocrity. That is what is happening these days.

The other big blow for good teaching is the undue importance given to research in western universities. There are these ace professors who live on grant collection, paper production on a mass scale and lecturing and conference attending. They rarely have time to spend with students to teach. Teaching has taken a back seat. Even to get tenure positions in Ivy League institutes it is the research CV that matters. No university gives importance to cultivate a good teacher who has a flare for teaching and making students feel comfortable. The other side of the coin is that standards of research have come down so much that a recent study showed that more than 95% of research done in these universities does not take knowledge forward and in many cases is not even worth the paper on which it is written. Professors have little time left to guide their doctoral students properly and PhD thesis standards are falling.

There are exceptions to what this Ohio professor was saying. Exceptions only prove the rule. One alumnus from Berkeley has this to say. “There are good teachers like Walter Levin at MIT, Richard Karp at Berkeley, etc., who are not only top researchers but also top undergraduate teachers. They teach beginners, unlike in India where senior teachers teach only senior students. Their lectures are highly inspirational and change many a student's career. And these teachers are not exceptions; people who are predominantly driven by research go to industry research, which is a lot more comfortable life than tenure-track positions. Only those that are passionate about teaching join academia and are willing to go through the pains of getting tenure. At Berkeley for example, I sat in undergrad 101 classes (although I was a PhD student) of some great teachers, simply to get inspired, or to look at the subject matter from a different angle. The top universities in US have "best teacher" awards, to encourage and motivate teaching, and such awards are a real honour, "much more than a Nobel prize", as they say in Berkeley.

Adam Smith had noted similar trends in Oxford of his days! With tenure posts of professors and the latter receiving their salaries from the tax payers’ money, teaching standards had fallen there even at that time. Adam Smith had shown how job security removed the need to work hard to please the students’ curiosity. In the past the professors had to get their salary from students when the latter were satisfied.  If you compare this with the present western fad for big salaries in tenure posts and job security there is no incentive for good teaching at all. To keep up the facade that these great institutions get only excellent students they practice grade enhancement methods. So no student who gets into Harvard gets anything other than “A” grade! Even the grades have become very liberal. In the 1950, the average GPA was 2.5. Today it is in the range of 3.5-3.9 out of 4! It is not that western students have become super intelligent in forty odd years. It is a proof that grade meddling is accepted in those institutions.

Now we come down to our institutions. If that were the scenario in the West one can only shudder to think of the goings on in our institutions including the large private institutions where all these and more should be going on. The same applies to Indian elite institutions. The matters in our burgeoning private universities would even make the angels weep. God save education and the country!

(Professor Dr BM Hegde, a Padma Bhushan awardee in 2010, is an MD, PhD, FRCP (London, Edinburgh, Glasgow & Dublin), FACC and FAMS. He is also Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the Science of Healing Outcomes, chairman of the State Health Society's Expert Committee, Govt of Bihar, Patna. He is former Vice Chancellor of Manipal University at Mangalore and former professor for Cardiology of the Middlesex Hospital Medical School, University of London.)


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