About 90% of the global burden of diseases occurs in developing countries, and it should be noted that most of these diseases are preventable infectious diseases (Murray & Lopez, 1994). Despite this, developing countries still suffer from a lack of scientific research activities to solve problems related to disease outbreaks. The reasons for the lack of scientific research are due to the lack of research capabilities and commercial viability (Røttingen et al., 2012). The actual reality of scientific research environment in Syria still faces many obstacles. In 2011, a report demonstrated that between 1980 and 2011, only 593 papers in the medical literature were published from Syrian medical institutions (Diab et al., 2011). An observational survey that gathered self‑reported data indicated to the presence of many barriers that prevent the medical students' participation in scientific research. However, this observational survey showed that Syrians already managed to partially tackle some of the obstacles imposed by the poor research environment (Turk et al.,2018).
The study was undertaken to test the newly designed scale that measure the scientific research environment of postgraduate medical students. The scale has been developed with content formulated by different stakeholder groups including medical students, medical education master's students, and medical education teaching staff. The findings showed the SREM has been a practical, simple and quick tool that can be used for assessing the scientific research environment in medical schools.
Scientific Research Environment Measure (SREM) consists of 38 items (20 positive statements and 18 negative statements). Each item is accompanied by a 5-point Likert scale, ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). The SREM scale is easy to manage. It has proper internal consistency and construct validity. The SREM scale also showed good test-retest stability. This is the first attempt to develop a tool that measures the postgraduate medical research environment, which may help to accurately identify the obstacles in each medical school and later measure the differences existed
The findings of this study indicated that the appropriate atmosphere is an essential factor for scientific research. The elements of this scale indicate the students’ need for an infrastructure equipped to conduct scientific research at the university, in addition to the university’s ability to provide financial support to researchers and facilitate their access to databases. The given period to complete the research must be available without wasting it with complex or long formal procedures or other tasks within the university not related to scientific research. Some educational and official factors are perceived to be obstacles that negatively affect the completion of postgraduate medical scientific research. In the lack of stimulating educational environment, some students consider the achievement of the research as a difficult task that becomes more difficult due to the large additional workload. On the other hand, the good infrastructure and the available financial support are factors that motivate the postgraduate medical students (Anbari et al., 2015). Each academic institution should contain libraries, halls, and well-equipped laboratories to complete the stages of the scientific research (Matin, 2017). Therefore, nine statements of the 38-item scale asked the students about the research atmosphere.
Autonomy of the researcher is the first step in creating the scientific personality of this researcher (Thompson, 2005). The scale included 5 statements that measure the autonomy of the postgraduate medical students. Findings indicated that students did not have always the opportunity to choose the supervisor, which can consequently affect their satisfaction and negatively affect their attitude towards their research. Previous work indicated that the students should have the opportunity to choose the appropriate supervisor (Geraghty& Olivier, 2018). This scale demonstrates postgraduate students' need not only for the choosing of the supervisor, but even the procedures for replacing the supervisor and submitting complaints in the case of any problem should be more clear.
Furthermore, the student should also select the topic of the research because this will increase the motivation and enthusiasm to complete the research in the best possible way. Likewise, discrimination on religious, cultural, or ethnic basis shouldn't be existing (Delamont et al., 1997). However, when tensions arise the student must be fully aware of the procedures to submit a complaint to the directors of postgraduate studies. The students should also know that the change of a supervisor could be requested in some exceptional circumstances (Thompson 2005).
Four statements asked the students about the social atmosphere. Through these statements, students expressed the need for an appropriate social atmosphere at the university while conducting the research. In their opinion, this means that all supervisors and colleagues should work together as a team within an atmosphere of affection and respect. Researchers encountered several problems during the research period, including miserable working conditions, loss of motivation, depression, and loneliness (Delamont et al., 1997). Students must act professionally with each other to maintain mutual relations among the researchers, the colleagues, and also the supervisors (Yousefi et al., 2015). Maintaining good communication is the key for success of research mission (Winchester-Seeto et al., 2014).
Supervision was the most controversial point within this scale. The postgraduate students' perceptions of supervision were measured in this scale through 12 different statements. This essential focus on supervision can be explained by the fact that the supervisor is the researcher's partner in completing or even not completing the research. Supervising requires that the supervisor possess many skills that scientific experience alone is not sufficient. Through this scale, students ask that the supervisors have enough time to complete the supervision tasks without the presence of other burdens and tasks. Supervisors must be passionate about scientific research, committed to their duties, and cooperate with the students to complete the scientific research without having other goals that they might use their position to impose on the students. The literature indicates that roles, responsibilities, and expectations must be clarified from the beginning. Students and supervisors must work together in an atmosphere of respect, commitment, and collegiality (Thompson 2005). Role ambiguity can lead to unprofessional behaviors (Yousefi et al., 2015). Poor research supervision through limited feedback may contribute to the research. Besides, the lack of support may delay the completion of the research (Lategan 2014). The less active and enthusiastic the supervisor is, the less likely the student will learn, so the effectiveness of the supervisor is an important way to help the students to learn (Delamont et al., 1997). Several supervisors consider the task of supervision to be a challenge for them due to the lack of time and the excessive workload. Excessive numbers of postgraduate students will cause a problem when the ratio is not balanced between the number of researcher students and the number of supervisors (Yousefi et al., 2015).
Undoubtedly, the main purpose of the scientific research is not just to complete it to obtain a certain certificate, but the real goal is to make scientific researchers capable of adding more to medical science through their researches. The (SREM) scale includes 8 statements for evaluating learning opportunities and academic-self perceptions The postgraduate students expressed their hope for scientific research to develop their abilities in communication, scientific thinking, self-learning and scientific research strategies. These are things that develop their personalities as researchers and make them feel motivated to continue their work in scientific research in the future. The literature demonstrated that postgraduate medical students should not think that their duty is just to complete the research, but rather to possess scientific research competencies. A student who wants to become a scientific researcher should not be ill-communicating or misses necessary skills to accomplish research tasks (Yousefi et al., 2015). Researchers should strive to achieve several points, the most prominent of which are building self-confidence and readiness to show higher levels of thinking (Wisker and Kiley 2014). Studies show that early participation in scientific research assignments enhances the tendencies of graduate students in medical colleges to complete work in the field of scientific research later in their medical careers (Ejaz et al., 2011).
In sum, The SREM was found to be a practical tool for assessing the environment for scientific research. Further studies with a larger sample size and in different universities are still essential to ascertain our findings and confirm the validity and reliability of this measure in assessing the scientific research environment. In addition, more research should be undertaken to evaluate the scientific research environment for postgraduate students in other faculties of health professions such as Dentistry and Pharmacy. This will inevitably reflect positively on the level of scientific research and researchers' competencies.