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Review Article
59 (
); 68-76

Options of Funding and Ethical Clearance for Medical Researchers in India

Centre for Community Medicine (CCM), All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, India

Address for correspondence Dr. Baridalyne Nongkynrih, MBBS, MD, Professor, Centre for Community Medicine, Room 18, Centre for Community Medicine (CCM), Old OT Block, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi 110029, India (e-mail:

This is an open access article published by Thieme under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonDerivative-NonCommercial-License, permitting copying and reproduction so long as the original work is given appropriate credit. Contents may not be used for commercial purposes, or adapted, remixed, transformed or built upon. (
This article was originally published by Thieme Medical and Scientific Publishers Pvt. Ltd. and was migrated to Scientific Scholar after the change of Publisher.


Research forms an integral part of present world development and interest. It is the primary source of speculation and outcome-based decision making. Medical research work proves to be a big challenge in low- and middle-income countries due to the constraint of resources and capacity building. The disparities in the distribution of resources, inadequate policy implementation, and lack of prioritization of research make the research challenging. There has been an increase in medical research in India but it is not adequate when compared to other countries or areas. Medical researchers face multiple issues, mainly funding and ethical approval and are stunted by the unacceptance in high-indexed journals. In this paper, we have compiled the options for funding and ethical options and ways available for researchers in India. This will help and encourage researchers pro-actively by providing some guidance on the issues related to finance and ethics required for conducting scientific research.


Medical Research
ethical clearance


Research is the creation of new knowledge and/or the use of existing knowledge to develop new concepts, methodologies and to broaden our understandings.1 It is a stepwise process which uses collected information to increase our understanding of a topic or issue.2 Medical research (research related to health) is the stepping stone towards making people healthier and providing quality care. It can be related to the disease trends and risk factors, outcomes of treatment or public health interventions, functional abilities, patterns of care, health care costs and use, and drug or vaccine efficacy and adverse effects.3 It helps the decision-makers in keeping up with the struggle of rapidly evolving scientific knowledge and applying it to healthcare practice, organisation, and policy. It involves the uptake of clinical procedures, technologies, and organisational models to achieve the best possible healthcare outcomes and to stop practices that are no longer supported by evidence to be beneficial.4

The research output from low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) such as India compares poorly with that of high-income countries.5 There has been an increase in the medical research in India but it is not adequate when compared to other countries or areas.6,7 This phenomenon, dubbed the ‘10/90 gap’ by the Global Forum for Health Research, refers to the fact that of the over $ 70 billion spent worldwide on health research each year, only about 10% is invested in research into 90% of the Global Burden of Disease (GBD).8 The inequality rises from macroeconomic, power imbalances and resource drainage to perceived better prospects.9 Majority of research work in India takes place in the major teaching hospitals wherein the caseload is too high to dedicate a respectable amount of time to genuine research or for discussions. In such a scenario, there is a drill culture, where instead of coming up with better or more efficient ideas, healthcare workers are forced to stick to the norms. Risk-taking is not a viable option for the majority of healthcare professionals in India as such initiatives are often seen with suspicion and mistrust, and often lead to communication breakdown. The output of good-quality medical research from India is grossly inadequate, and there is a need for strategic planning. There is a gross low relative research output in several health conditions in India that have a high burden.10

A researcher can be affiliated with an academic (or other) institute/organisation or unaffiliated (independent). Affiliated researchers conduct research by using the facilities of their university, libraries, or by collaboration. Unaffiliated researcher (Independent researcher) is not affiliated with any institute/organisation.11,12 He/she is motivated toward the research by personal interest or passion over the topic. An affiliated researcher can be limited by time constraints, lack of motivation and most importantly independence or freedom. It becomes important in many scenarios wherein an institution or its policies may keep many ideas in check, for the fear of disturbing the homeostasis of the societal fabric. In such a situation, independent research can be the ideal combination for an effective change agent. The independent researcher has the education, expertise, and motivation. He/she can be a change agent, or effective advocate, for an idea or cause.13 Both types of researchers can face several hindrances in conducting research. One of the major issues is the availability of funds and ethical clearance.10 There is also a lack of willingness for strategic collaboration, undermining the value of both research and its projected outcome.14 In such a situation it becomes difficult for the researcher to carry out research effectively and this, in turn, leads to a vicious cycle of losing out in the race for good quality research and study. In this article, we discuss the opportunities and options available for medical researchers in India in terms of funding and ethical clearance. This will ease the process of conducting research and will encourage researchers pro-actively by focusing on the issues related to finance and ethics faced by them.

Funding Options

Not all the studies require funding. Many studies have been done in the past without any financial support. It can be done by utilising the available infrastructure and resources or with the help of volunteers. However, most of the studies require financial support. The majority of the research, if undertaken under the purview of an institution, can be funded by the institute itself (intramural) or from outside the institute (extramural). Researchers who are not affiliated with any institute may face several challenges. The common funding options for an unaffiliated researcher can be through fellowships, grants or awards.

The ways to avail of funding for medical research are enumerated below:

  1. Fellowships – Fellowships usually pertain to aids for research in a particular area. Fellowship may refer to just a position and may not include a financial component.

  2. Grants – They usually cover expenses related to specific research. There is a funding opportunity followed by applications and decisions regarding the award of the grant. Details are provided in ►Table 1.

  3. Awards – An acknowledgement or appreciation of the achievements in the respective field. It can be monetary and it can be used for the research.

  4. Funding from the Ministries/organisation in India can be obtained under the projects/schemes. Most of this funding is availed through affiliating with the NGOs/associations/societies/bodies/institutes. A list of funding organisations is provided in ►Table 2.

  5. Availing through registered organisations/societies/trust– Under this, organisations working on the related topic can be approached and research can be initiated in collaboration. Most of the registered organisations get funding for the research or they can apply for grants at various portals. For an independent researcher, working with an organisation makes it easier to get funds for research. From the funder's perspective, the accountability and transparency of the fund are relatively higher in the organisation. Various private companies in India try to invest more in Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) under the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

  6. Partnership with the other group of researchers who are working on the same area of interest.

  7. Professional societies/associations/trust of medical professions can also be approached; e.g. Indian Medical Association (IMA), Indian Association of Dermatologists, Venereologists and Leprologists (IADVL), Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP), Indian Radiology and Imaging Association (IRIA), Indian Association of Preventive and Social Medicine (IAPSM), Indian Public Health Association (IPHA), Association of Physicians of India.

Ethical Clearance

Details about when to approach an Ethics committee have been shown in ►Figure 1. For a researcher affiliated with an institution, any research taken up is addressed by the Institutional Ethics Committee (IEC) of the particular institution. In case of collaboration with any other institute, the Ethics Committee of the collaborating institute can be approached for a get-go from their side. For an independent researcher, one of the major challenges faced is getting ethical clearance for their research. Due to the lack of affiliation to an institute/organisation or lack of ethics committee, it becomes difficult to go start any research work. Even during the publication, ethical approval is one of the mandatory requirement.

Process for funding and ethical clearance in conducting a research study.
Fig. 1
Process for funding and ethical clearance in conducting a research study.

Thus, the following are the ways for an ethical approval:

  1. Approaching the IEC of the affiliated institute

  2. An unaffiliated researcher may approach the ethics board of any institution/organisation with the request of overseeing the ethical aspect of their research process. However, in most institutional ethical committees, an independent researcher may not be entertained.

  3. An unaffiliated researcher may collaborate with another researcher who is affiliated with an institute (having an ethics committee) to get the ethical clearance.

  4. Central Ethics Committee on Human Research (CECHR) of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)

  5. Independent ethics committees – There are several independent ethics committees in India that a researcher can approach for ethical clearance. Details in ►Table 3.

  6. Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) – An NGO/society/trust can have its ethics committee which can be registered with National Ethics Committee Registry for Biomedical and Health Research (NECRBHR).

Table 1 List of grants/fellowships for funding related to research
S.No. Funder Fellowship/award/grants Eligibility Duration Website
Based in India
1 Lady Tata Memorial Trust Young Researcher Award Indian Nationals < 40 years with a PhD with 10 years' experience 3 + 2 years based on the review of progress
2 DBT-Wellcome Trust India Alliance Margdarshi Fellowship Strong scientific leadership with more than 10 years' experience running an independent lab 5 years
3 DBT-Wellcome Trust India Alliance Team Science Grants A minimum of three investigators (investigators should have PhD/MD/MBBS-MS/MPH or equivalent, with at least 5 years of experience in running an independent research group or lab). 5 years
4 DBT-Wellcome Trust India Alliance Clinical and Public Health (CPH) Fellowships Under three categories of early, intermediate and senior category 5 years
5 Science and Engineering Research Board Start-up Research Grant Indian citizens less than 40 years with a PhD degree 2 years
6 Human Frontier in Science Program (HFSP) Young Investigator's grants Junior Independent PI, within 5 years of obtaining an independent position 3 years
7 Human Frontier in Science Program (HFSP) Programme grants Independent PI 3 years
8 Department of Science & Technology (DST) INSPIRE Faculty Fellow Indian citizens less than 32 years with PhD degree with more than 60%in all exams since class 12. 5 years
9 Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB) National Postdoctoral Fellowship Indian citizen less than 35 years with PhD/MD degree 2 years
10 Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB) Ramanujan Fellowship Indian scientists and engineers working abroad and below the age of 40 years. 5 years
11 Council Of Scientific And Industrial Research (CSIR) Fellowship/Associate-ship Indians less than 35 years with PhD degree/M.D. with one publication in a recognized journal. 1 year
12 Department of Biotechnology (DBT) Ramalingaswami Re-entry Fellowship Indians working overseas with less than 45 y of PhD or MD and 3 years of PG experience. 5 years
13 Department of Biotechnology (DBT) Innovative Young Biotechnologist Award Scientist with PhD less than 35 years of excellent academic career with a PhD and First Class in all academic degrees, along with a track record of high impact peer-reviewed publications 3 years
14 Sir Ratan Tata Trusts, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Access Health International India health policy & systems research fellowships (HPSR) At least 3 years of research experience in any public health or health systems domain. 18 months
15 ICMR-DHR ICMR-DHR International Fellowship Programme for Indian Biomedical Scientists Applicant should possess an M.D/M.S/Ph.D degree with 3 to 15years of experience Short term (2wks – 3months) or long term (6 to 12 months)
16 Research Grant in the area of Biological Sciences Sree Padmavathi Venkateswara Foundation (SreePVF) Universities, R&D institutions, medical centres and recognized non-profit research organizations in India with PhD/MS/MD 3 years
17 Research Associate Fellowship programme ICMR PhD/MD/MDS 3 years
18 Fellowship Programme for Young Scientists Department of Health Research (DHR) MD/MS/MDS/or PhD in biomedical sciences 3 years
19 Fellowship Programme for Women Scientists Department of Health Research (DHR) M.D./M.S./M.D.S. or MBBS/BDS/MVSc./M.Sc./M.Pharma/M.Tech with Ph.D. 3 years
Based Outside India
1 Alexander Humboldt Foundation Fellowship for experienced researchers Independent PI (Assistant Professor/Junior Research GL) with < 12 year of experience 6-18 months, can be divided into 3 blocks of a minimum of 3 months each in 3 years.
2 HHMI/Gates/Wellcome Trust/Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation) International Research Scholars Program Applicants have outstanding scientific training records and exceptional potential for significant in their independent careers and are trained in the United States or the United Kingdom at the doctoral, medical, or postdoctoral level for at least 1 year. 5 years
3 Royal Society, UK International Exchange Scheme Postdoc or holding an independent position in a research institute/university Variable from 3months, 1 year or 2 years
4 Wellcome Trust (UK) Biomedical resource and technology development grants Researchers in LMIC are eligible to apply if they have a track record of Trust funding or can demonstrate a strong track record of independent research accomplishment. Upto 5 years
5 National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), USA Enabling translation of Science to Service to ENhance Depression CarE (ESSENCE) 2 years
6 International Labour Organisation (ILO) Fellowships and Seed Grants for Junior Researchers PhD degree holders, PhD students, or Master's degree holders with 5 years of relevant research and teaching experience. 9 to 12 months–en/index.htm
7 An International Association for medical education (AMEE) Provides awards, grants and fellowships To be a member of AMEE, hold at least a bachelor's degree.
8 Trialect Provides awards, grants and fellowships Have citizenship in a country other than the U.S, and Hold an academic degree (earned in the U.S. or abroad) equivalent to a U.S. bachelor's degree.
9 Thakur Foundation Grants All applicants must have a college degree or its equivalent and publications 3 months – 2 years
10 Yamagiwa-Yoshida Memorial international study grants (any country overseas) Grants PhD/MD with min 2 years postdoc experience 3 months
11 Primary Health Care Performance Initiative (PHCPI) Grants Affiliation with an organisation

Note: The list is representative, and not comprehensive.

Table 2 List and website details for funding ministries and organisations in India
Organisation Name Website
Ministries in India Ministry of Ayush
Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW)
Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate change
Department of Scientific and Industrial Research
Ministry of Food Processing
Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources
Ministry of Power, Central Power Research Institute
Ministry of Water Resources, ICID
Ministry of Earth Sciences
Department of Education
Science and Technology: Application for Rural Development
Science and Technology: For Weaker Sections.
National Organisations University Grant Commission (UGC)
Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)
Indian Statistical Institute (ISI)
Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR)
Reserve Bank of India (RBI)
National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER)
National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP)
Institute of Economic Growth (IEG)
Indian Council of Social Science Research, New Delhi
Department of Science and Technology (DST)
Department of Biotechnology (DBT)
Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)
National Health System Resource Centre (NHSRC)
Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)
Department of Health Research (DHR)
International organisations World Bank (WB)
International Monetary Fund (IMF)
Asian Development Bank (ADB)
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
World Trade Organization (WTO)
Ford Foundation
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
National Institute of Health (NIH)
International Labour Organisation (ILO)–en/index.htm
United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR)
Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases (GACD)
The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA)
Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF)
Centre for disease Control (CDC)

Note: The list is representative, and not comprehensive.

Table 3 List of Independent Ethics Committees in India
S.No. Name of Committees Address
1 Adoni Independent Ethics Committee 4th Floor, Sri Balaji Nursing Home, Opp State Bank of Hyderabad, Adoni-518301, Kurnool District, Andhra Pradesh
2 Deccan Independent Ethics Committee Quinary Clinical Research Pvt. Ltd.) H.No. 7-1-619/A/3/2, Plot No. 50, Gayatri Nagar Co-Op Housing Society, Ameerpet Hyderabad Hyderabad Telangana
3 Global Independent Ethics Committee Global Independent Ethics Committee 15/A,16/A,17/A Nandini Enclave Addagutta Society, HMT Hills Road, Serilingampalli Hyderabad Ranga Reddy Telangana
4 Ikon Independent Ethics Committee Flat No. 104 D, Block Kanchanjunga Apartment, Ameerpet, Hyderabad-500038 Andhra Pradesh India
5 Independent Ethics Committee, Visakhapatnam, R.R. Towers 2nd Floor, D. No. 17-1-15/24, Flat No.-109, Opp. KGH Maharanipet, Visakhapatnam-530002
6 Maarg Independent Ethics Committee Sree Nilayam Plot no 38 P&T Colony, Near RTA Office, Trimulgherry, Secunderabad -500015 Andhra Pradesh India
7 Naithika Independent Ethics Committee 305, Sumedha Apartments, Street no.2, Kakathiya Nagar, Habsiguda, Hyderabad-500007
8 S2J Independent Ethics Committee at Holistic Health Care and Research Centre 3 1-230 Nimboliadda Kachiguda Hyderabad-500027 Andhra Pradesh India
9 Independent Ethics Committee Diabetes Care and Research Centre, G.C-1B, Near Overbridge, Kankarbagh, Patna-800020, Bihar
10 Ethics Committee, entitled as “Independent Ethics Committee” Academic and Research Department, room no23A, IInd floor, fortis escorts heart institute, Okhla New Delhi.
11 Independent Ethics Committee Society for Research Welfare, New Delhi New Delhi
12 Independent Ethics Committee, Indian Fertility Society Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, MAMC and Lok Nayak Hospital, Jawahar Lal Nehru Marg, New Delhi-110002
13 Rational Independent Ethics Committee Registered office: J-36, Saket, New Delhi 110017
14 Aadhya Independent Ethics Committee 1st Floor, 470/41, Ram Vatika, Opp Bank of Baroda, Girdharnagar, Shahibaug-380004, Gujarat
15 Aceas Independent Ethics Committee Aradhya Ambawadi Ahmedabad
16 Anubhav Independent Ethics Committee B- Ground Floor, Tirupati Apartment, Behind Old High Court, Navrangapura, Ahmedabad 380009, Gujarat, India
17 Anveshhan Independent Ethics Committee B- 8, Simandhar Residency, near Gulab Tower, Behind Utopia School, Thaltej, Ahmedabad 380054, Gujarat
18 Bio Smart Independent Ethics Committee F/12 Avni Complex Naranpura Bus Stop Naranpura Ahmedabad-380013 Gujarat India
19 Ethics Committee, Astha Independent Ethics Committee 502 Shashvat Tower, Near Shyamal Row House-3/B Behind Dhananjay Tower Satellite Ahmedabad 380015 Gujarat India
20 I Biome Independent Ethics Committee B-501, Krishna Complex, Near Rajpath Club, S.G. Highway, Ahmedabad-380054, Gujarat
21 Independent Ethics Committee 57 Brahmin Mitra Mandal Society B/W Paldi Bus Stop and Jalaram Mandir Paldi Ahmedabad-38006
22 Independent Ethics Committee Maanav Health Foundation, A-1, Anupam Nagar, B/h, Rajeev Tower, Near Tube Company, O. P. Road, Vadodara 390020, Gujarat
23 Independent Ethics Committee Aditya, 001, Aradhya, Under Shreyas Flyover, Ambawadi, Ahmadabad-380015, Gujarat
24 Sanjeevani Independent Ethics Committee GF-28,29 & 44, Avishkar Complex, Nr. G.E.B. Colony, Old Padra Road, Vadodara-390015
25 Siddhant Independent Ethics Committee 210, Umia Vijay Shopping Centre, Satellite Road, Ahmedabad 15, Gujarat
26 South Gujarat Independent Ethics Committee 101, DivyaDarshan Apartment, GhodDod Road, Surat 395007
27 Spandan-Independent Ethics Committee B-5, Siddhi Sarjan Apartment, Near Seema Hall, Anandnagar, Satellite, Ahmadabad-380015, Gujarat
28 Imperial life Sciences Independent Ethics Committee ILSEC 463 Pace City II Sector-37 Gurgaon-122001 Haryana India
29 Independent Ethics Committee Norwich ClinicalServices 147/I First Floor 10th Main 3rd Block Koramangala Bangalore Bengaluru
30 Karesa Independent Ethics Committee Biosite Research Private Limited 740, Second Floor, 14th Main Kumarswamy Layout, Stage 1 Bengaluru Bengaluru (Bangalore) Urban Karnataka
31 Marthi Independent Ethics Committee 23 12th Cross Palace Guttahalli Main Road Near muthoot Finance Vinayak Nagar Mahheshwaram West Bangalore-560003 India
32 Sri Durgamba Independent Ethics Committee 5th cross 5th stage kamakya layout banashankari same as address line 1 Bengaluru (Bangalore) Rural Karnataka
33 Karkinos Healthcare Independent Ethics Committee Karkinos Healthcare Technologies Kerala Private Ltd Karkinos Healthcare Technologies Kerala Pvt LTD Kattikaran House 7/3, SRA 30, CRASH Road Ernakulam Ernakulam Kerala
34 Aadhar Independent Ethics Committee Kitchen Shop, North Shivaji Nagar, Opp Sadanand Hotel, Sangli Miraj Road Sangli
35 Independent Ethics Committee Prashanti Cancer Care Mission 2, Kapilvastu, Senapati Bapat Road 1, Kapilvastu, Senapati Bapat Road Pune
36 Skinovate Independent Ethics Committee Skinovate Laser And Cosmetic Surgery Center Office No.303, Royal Avenue, S.No 18, Hissa No.11/6 Rahatani, Pimple Saudagar Pune Pune Maharashtra
37 V Care Independent Ethics Committee Can Cure Day Care Centre Fr. Agnel College, Sector 9A, Vashi-Navi Mumbai Next To Noor Masjid, Vashi, Navi Mumbai 400703 THANE Thane Maharashtra
38 Veracity Independent Ethics Committee Veracity Independent Ethics Committee Rock Arcad, Shop No. 55, Camp Road (Block) Tapowan Road Amravati Amravati Maharashtra
39 Vision Independent Ethics Committee Parth Solitaire Office No. Kalamboli Navi Mumbai Maharashtra India
40 CUTM-Independent Ethics Committee Centurion University Of Technology And Management - Ramachandrapur, Po- Jatni Khordha Bhubaneswar Khordha Orissa
41 Balaji Independent Ethics Committee Chettichavaddi Near Zoological Park Salem Tamil Nadu
42 Ripon Independent Ethics Committee 16/34 Veda Nagar 2nd Stage 4th Street Chinmaya Nagar Chennai
43 Sri Rajarajeswari Independent Ethics Pvt. Ltd Building No. 25, Plot no -2, Door no 3, Ground floor, Vembuli Amman Koil StreetExtn - Palavanthangal Chennai
44 Independent Ethics Committee Narayana Diagnostics Narayana Diagnostics Plot No.4, H, No- 546/768N, LGF-1, Hardoi Road, Near Era Medical CollegeSarfarazganj, Lucknow Lucknow Uttar Pradesh
45 Independent Ethics Committee CR India Independent Research Ethics Society 119 Rajdanga Gold Park Tribarna Sangha Kasba Kolkata Kolkata West Bengal

Note: The list is representative, and not comprehensive.

The Way Forward

Research today is one of the forerunners of health and development around the world. Research in India has a long and arduous way ahead in terms of galvanizing an entire cohort of Indian minds to the unexplored aspects of healthcare. The most efficient and easy option for an independent researcher is to get funding for research through collaboration with other researchers or organisations, and then apply for funding. To a certain extent, a collaboration provides certain advantages like the pooling of resources and a higher number of inputs to improve the quality of work. However, there are various challenges related to collaboration during sharing the responsibilities, credit, resolving disagreements and decision making.15 Funding for researchers needs to be made more accessible and flexible. There are very limited organisations that fund unaffiliated researchers. Promoting unaffiliated research should be a part of the policymaking directive. For ethics, we suggest a Central Independent Ethics Review Committee which would guide the nearest ethics committee to approach for approval. Fast-tracking of the research proposal can be done by segregating the research based on types and through undertakings. Promoting free and online training programmes for researchers can be also done to enhance the quality of their research. Leveraging the technology for the digitalisation of the process will ease and motivate the researchers. A central online portal with various funding available for the research will increase the opportunities for researchers. It would provide a boost to the researchers who struggle with their ideas in the absence of monetary inputs or a chance for their original work to be recognised.

Author Contributions

S.D.: Methodology, resources, data curation, and writing – original draft, and reviewing; A.C.: Conceptualization, methodology, drafting, writing – original draft, and reviewing; B.N.: Conceptualization, Writing – review and editing, supervision, and visualization

Conflict of Interest

None declared.


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