History of School of Dentistry - Research
Before the ‘70’s, the School’s research output was limited to some theses and fellowships that were completed mainly in the School of Medicine, with sporadic publications in Greek journals at the time. Except from some individual efforts, the overall contribution of the Greek dental research to the international journals and conferences were minimal.
During the ‘70’s, with the relocation of the School to its new premises at Goudi, an effort was undertaken to create the appropriate research infrastructure. It is worth noting that at the IADR congress of 1971, for the first time, five research papers were presented from the Department of Dental Pathology and Therapeutics. During this period, the important contribution of the late Professor A. Apostolopoulos to the research development in the School should be acknowledged. who organized the first research laboratory, with comparable standards to US and European Schools. Indicatively, the scientific instrumentation included gas-chromatography, amino-acid analyzer, infrared and visible-ultraviolet spectrometers, micro-hardness tester, microradiography devices, etc.
In the ‘80’s, more independent research laboratories were established, such as the Laboratory of Histopathology by the late Professor A. Angelopoulos, the Laboratory of Microbiology by Professor Ph. Mitsis, and the Laboratory of Dental Materials by the then Lecturer G. Vougiouklakis, thus initiating a systematic approach for research development. Indeed, since the need for a strategic research planning became evident from the very early stage, the late Professor N. Demetrius was assigned to organize a Research Institute in the School. The legal framework for the establishment of the Institute was issued including the organization, operating principles, procedures etc. Unfortunately, the Institute never functioned for reasons not unusual in Greece. During this period an organized research cooperation began between the School of Dentistry and the Medical School of the University of Athens, the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), the University of Patras, the National Research Center “Demokritos” and other private and public research centers. This cooperation enabled colleagues to conduct their research, combining the capabilities provided by the School with the parallel technical support from the specialized research laboratories. An important contribution to the research development in the School was the installation and operation of of the first Scanning Electron Microscope (late 80’s), which was later donated to the Department of Biology of our University and is still in function..
It was during this decade that a substantial production of research output was achieved, as considered with the current standards, which yielded 158 papers in international peer-reviewed journals.
In the 90’s, the establishment of the Graduate Programs had a tremendous impact on the research work conducted in the School. Faculty members with international reputation were placed in important positions of various organizations related to health, in Greece and abroad, while at the same time the research cooperation was expanded including universities of the European Union. The Dental School submitted research proposals for funding by national programs, which were successfully implemented. During this period, 121 graduate theses and 86 Doctoral dissertations were issued, with particular attention given to clinical research.
The research work carried out at the School during this decade was more than twice of the previous decate, encountering 324 publications in international peer-reviewed journals. The first bibliometric indicators for Greece, as announced by the European Union for 1995-1999, ranked the international impact of the research output of Greek Dentistry (which at that time was primarily performed by the Athens School) at a higher position than others disciplines, such as Computer Science, Mathematics and Mechanical & Electrical Engineering.
The 2000’s was the decade where research in the School of Dentistry complied with very high standards. During this time the graduate programs were fully developed. At the same time, the 5th Section of Basic Sciences and Oral Biology was established and staffed, with a primary purpose the support of research in the School, and the Departments of Biomaterials and Biomedical Sciences were established. The new Departments were equipped with some innovative instruments for non-destructive testing including a) a variable pressure scanning electron microscope with an X-ray microanalysis system and the capacity of imaging and elemental analysis under all contitions; b) a computerized X-ray microtomography system and c) an FTIR spectrometer with an array of accessories for surface and molecular orientation analysis including an FTIR microscope for molecular mapping. The installation and successful implementation of these equipment, along an array of others, in the research capabilities of the School have resulted in the development of a sector providing analytical and testing services to third parties, such as the Dental School of Aristotle University, the Medical School of the University of Athens, the School of Chemical Engineering and Metallurgy of the NTUA, the TEI (Dental Technology, Art Concervation), Hospitals (for specific measurements of biomaterials or tissues), the Hellenic Food Authority (for cases requiring non-destructive analysis), the Research Center for Biomaterials (EU notified body for medical materials and devices) and many dental materials manufacturers. Moreover, the quality of the research work published in recognized international peer-reviewed journals, has resulted in the development of a sector for providing testing services to dental materials manufacturers of dental materials and devices. For example, in the Department of Biomaterials 52 service contracts have been signed and completed (through the Special Account for Research Grants of the University), for Greek and foreign companies, including major dental materials manufacturers from the USA, Germany, Great Britain, France, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Japan and Italy. At the same time, the School of Dentistry participated in four European projects, which were completed successfully. This decade 318 experimental graduate theses (MSc) and 81 PhD dissertations were completed. The number of articles published in international peer-reviewed journals (410) showed a 38% increase in comparison to the previous decade, not including contributions of chapters published in international textbooks by several faculty members. As far as the quality of research work is concerned, it is worth mentioning that during this decade 22 papers were honoured with international awards and two faculty members won the highest honours for their contributions in their scientific fields, awarded by leading international research organizations after a rigorous judgment process.. This output concerns a school with approximately 120 faculty members. The bibliometric indicators for the period 1994-2003, according to a study by Professor D. Trichopoulos and his colleagues, ranked the contribution of the School of Dentistry at 4.8 ‰ of the world production based on a list of 30 international journals with the highest impact factor. For comparison Oncology, the leading medical specialty in research output, had a participation of approximately 8.2 ‰, while the national average for all disciplines was 4.5 ‰.
During this period students from foreign countries came to our School to perform the experimental part of their graduate work (MS, PhD, Post-Doc) which was later defended in their countries. For example the Department of Biomaterials hosted 11 students from the US, 4 from Great. Britain, 5 from Germany, 1 from Poland, 1 from Egypt, 2 from Saudi Arabia and 2 from Chile. The School has developed research networks within the European Union and the US, and started a cooperation with the Arabic peninsula countries, where there is a very positive response for the expertise we provide. A significant development for the School of Dentistry,was that members of the faculty have been selected in important positions of leading international scientific organizations, in Oral Oncology, Oral Pathology, Caries Research, Periodontology, Dental Materials, Dental Surgery, Dental Education, Dental radiology, Pediatric Dentistry and Prosthodontics.
In the current decade, research in all areas and in all countries was severely affected by the economic crisis. The cut-down in research funding has already created enormous problems in countries with a tradition in research, dramatically reducing their productivity. The School of Dentistry in Athens, never had a great budget inflow for research. There were even cases where the research related costs were covered by the faculty members themselves. With proper management of the available funds, the research work continues. In 2010 the second external evaluation of the School took place with evaluators from the US, Great Britain, France and Finland (no Greeks and no previous connections with the School). The comments on the research output and international recognition were very positive. The first three years of this decade, 52 graduate and 18 doctoral theses were completed and 215 papers published in international peer-reviewed journals. We managed, in three years, to cover 50% of the publications of the last decade and this under the current economic crisis conditions. Regarding the quality of the work during these three years, it should be mentioned that 6 papers won top international awards. All these provide clear and strong evidence on the tradition, dynamic implementation and high prospects of the research conducted in our School.
* Excerpt from the speech given by Professor G.Eliadis on the occasion of the 100th Founding Anniversary of the School of Dentistry of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens.