Research Interests

Research does not retire and interests never superannuate.

Evolutionary medicine

I] Evolutionary origins and basic biology behind type 2 diabetes and related disorders: I have completely reinterpreted the basic biological processes underlying type 2 diabetes mellitus, metabolic syndrome and many other modern lifestyle disorders. In the emerging picture of metabolic syndrome, brain and behaviour rather than diet and metabolism occupy the central stage. This new interpretation has important implications for clinical practice and drug discovery. An elaborate account of the new interpretation can be found in my Springer book “Doves, Diplomats and Diabetes: a Darwinian interpretation of type 2 diabetes and related disorders” (http://www.amazon.com/Doves-Diplomats-Diabetes-Darwinian-Interpretation/dp/146144408X). A behavioural intervention protocol for the reversal of type 2 diabetes is heading for clinical trials.

Visit link: http://www.springer.com/life+sciences/evolutionary+%26+developmental+biology/book/978-1-4614-4408-4
Based on the concepts developed in our lab, a new clinic called BILD (Behavioral Intervention for Lifestyle Disorders) is established at Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital and Research centre, a 1000 bed tertiary care hospital in Pune. A former post-doc of the lab Dr Pramod Patil is in charge of the new clinic. 

A talk on “Why type 2 diabetes is incurable: a new perspective”

II] Evolution and cancer: Cancer is an evolutionary process within a lifetime. Therefore using principles and models of evolution we are heading for developing certain novel insights into cancers that can have long term implications for prevention.

Evolutionary Psychology:

III] Evolution of human economic behaviour: How people optimize the cost-benefits of any behaviour is the main theme. We have some novel insights into the theory of optimization that throw new light on some of the old problems.

Specifically I am exploring the economics of biodiversity, people’s intuitive and perceptional statistics, how illiterates use subconscious quantitative algorithms to make economic and environmental decisions and why traditional economics have largely failed to understand people.

IV] Evolutionary psychology of science: A spin off of this general interest is in studying the evolutionary psychology of researchers. The field of research, research funding and scientific publishing has suffered substantially because of the lack of a sound theory of the behaviour of people in this field. There is some classical work such as Thomas Kuhn’s analysis of scientific revolution. But Kuhn stops at describing the phenomena, he does not analyse the evolutionary causes behind the behaviour of the research community. My interest is in finding the roots as well as repercussions of the social behaviour of scientists.

Evolutionary psychology of human relations is another long term interest. I have a few published papers, but currently underway is the preparation of a book in Marathi first that may be later translated in other languages.

V] Designing behaviour based systems: An applied outcome of the interest in evolutionary psychology and evolutionary economics is to design behaviour based systems of management. Can we design systems in which component optima have minimum or zero conflict with the system optimum so that the system works with minimum monitoring and governance? Can we design a system of community management in which honesty gets maximum pay-off, so that zero external policing is required? Can we design systems such that if everyone behaves selfishly, the system runs smoothly? Can selfishness invariably lead to justice and equity in a system? Such systems will require no external or top down policing. Currently one such system is under trial implementation and one more under theoretical development.

Wildlife Ecology and conservation: 

Human Wildlife conflict, particularly the ecology, economics and behavioural aspects of crop damage by wild and protected species of herbvores is being studied on the western boundary of Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra. The project has substantial involvement of local people, including farmers and landless, illiterates and partial literates. These barefoot researchers contribute to data collection, thinking and interpretation as well. We designed a behavioral economics based solution for a community operated model of assessing and compensating for crop damage. In collaboration with the Kapil Chandrayan of Vidarbh Development Board, Poorva Joshi of Bioconcepts Pune and Vijay Dethe of Paryavaran Mitra a pilot implementation of the concept is underway. 

Theoretical and philosophical interests

Some of the fundamental issues in the methods and philosophy of science such as the nature of the question “why” in biology, the nature of causality and methods of causal inferences, the distinction between steady state and perturbed state causality, making causal inferences from cross sectional data are some of my active interests. I intend to develop usable methods of causal inference that go beyond classical statistics. We have already published one set of usable and reliable principles to infer causality from cross sectional correlations between three or more variables at a time.