Trial by fire
Medical researchers seem to have worried unduly that their grants from funding agencies would be affected because a fire at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) on April 27 destroyed their research material. S D Seth, head of the pharmacology department at AIIMS, says, "We have received assurances from funding agencies about the continuation of grants." In fact, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has renewed its monthly grant to his department. Shortly after the fire, Seth had lamented, "The damage is colossal. What's worse, research funding agencies expect reports, when they provide the money."
AIIMS researchers are optimistic that with help from the hospital administration and the health ministry, much of the research work lost in the affected departments of pharmacology, biochemistry, biophysics and physiology can be resurrected. The authorities, in addition, have assumed they will compensate losses suffered in various projects. Usha Nayar of the physiology department at AIIMS disclosed, "The fire-hit departments were asked recently to purchase any equipment required."
Nor is work at a standstill because of the fire. Some researchers were accommodated in AIIMS undergraduate laboratories and others have been offered facilities by such organisations as the National Institute of Immunology.
Research projects commissioned by ICMR, department of science and technology, ministry of environment and a five-year, Indo-US neurobiology study were affected by the blaze and many PhD candidates lost their samples and their data. Gokulam, for example, saw four years of her AIDS-related research, vanish in smoke. Nevertheless, one researcher commented, "This is not the end of one's work. We'll just have to work harder."