Thursday, January 21, 2010

More problems in doing science in the Philippines

One of the good things about the social networking and other likewise sites in the cybersphere is that people from geographically disparate places can meet. In the yahoo group of the Philippine Association of Marine Science, an interesting discussion thread is happening. The main question posed is this

Why even with the increased science funding given to the DOST by the previous administrations and the present one, our science as evidenced by competitive rankings, has not progressed much but even retrogressed?

It is no secret that the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo administration has invested much in S&T much more than its predecessors ever did. The GMA administration has at least a science development strategy that departs from the usual science and national development lip service mantra. Perhaps this is due mainly to GMA appointing experienced science administrators to the DOST.

But we have these recent statistics provided by Dr Lawrence Liao of USC in Cebu

Table of Asia-10 publications (rearranged from WK Cummings data provided by Dr. Lawrence M. Liao)

Avg annual change (%)
1995 2000 2005 1995-00 2000-05 1995-05

Japan 47,068 57,101 55,471 3.9 -0.6 1.7
China 9,061 18,479 41,596 15.3 17.6 16.5
South Korea 3,803 9,572 16,396 20.3 11.4 15.7
India 9,370 10,276 14,608 1.9 7.3 4.5

Taiwan 4,759 7,190 10,841 8.6 8.6 8.6
Singapore 1,141 2,361 3,609 15.6 8.9 12.2
Thailand 340 663 1,249 14.3 13.5 13.9
Malaysia 366 460 615 4.7 6.0 5.3
Indonesia 129 182 205 7.0 2.5 4.7
Philippines 145 185 178 5.0 -0.7 2.1

The main index of science competitiveness is seen in the publication and citation index. And for the period of 2000-2005, we have a negative rating. It is during this time that the Arroyo administration started to sink in huge sums of cash to our science development. South Korea shows the best competitiveness since even with the Asian financial crash of 1997, it has managed to outperform all Asian countries in the list. Korean scientists say that they actively campaigned and manage to get scientists elected to Parliament. They obviously had a large say in directing Korea's science policy.

Professor Flor Lacanilao of UP has listed some major problems in why we have this problem. One is on poor research practice and lack of experienced researchers that hinders the training of young scientists. Professor Raul K Suarez has listed the preconceptions that hinder productivity. And since the training of scientists and the generating of new scientific knowledge is done in the universities, there is the problem of academic reform. I will be a wag. I would call the problem of why we can't produce because of our academic culture as "the Diliman Delusion". I will honour Professor Richard Dawkins with "Diliman Delusion" since the idea that the University of the Philippines is the best university is a matter of religious dogma rather than scientific fact. I'll write something about this as a blog post soon. Since that can't bring us to salvation, then it must be what Rich Dawkins writes about.

This is how I see the problem in the near term

"However what hinders scientific productivity in the near term is the lack of access to the latest literature, especially through online.

The UP College of Science tries to make up for this by having trial access arrangements (while it has provided access to a few like Elsevier). This simply doesn't work. The latest literature are for premium subscribers. One of my earlier papers was not accessible to me in the UP using this trial arrangement!

Since access to scientific literature is key to improving productivity, major
priority should be given towards this end. All science institutes and departments will benefit from this whether these are UP departments or those from other universities."

Other scientists have summarized all the issues

"One recurring complaints here and elsewhere is on funding (e.g., Joselito Alcaria’s comment 34). My suggested readings in comments 5 & 21 show much research money have been spent but did not result in valid publications. (This partly explains the table of publications that form the background of our discussion.) Examples of wasted research funds are also given by Ben Vallejo (15), Raul Suarez (10, 19), and Ed Leano (22).

The next President of the Philippines come June 1, 2010 will be in the important position to strategically direct the Philippines scientific development for the large part of the decade. That's if science is part of the major platform of the next administration. But from the looks of it, none of the candidates have a clear idea of strengthening the education sector. What more of science which is married to education?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

could you provide the EXACT link to the productivity index. it appears that wk cummings is merely an author cited, and not a database that actually gathers and generates the indices, unless the correct link will prove me wrong.

interesting figures he's got there. makes us wonder if english was used to necessarily SHARE scientific knowledge and research ideas in japan, china, taiwan, and even indonesia.