Author Topic: Science in 100 years of UP biology  (Read 4993 times)


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Science in 100 years of UP biology
« on: May 12, 2010, 01:29:09 PM »
When asked by the president of the UP Institute of Biology Alumni Association to write about our zoology class of 1960, I got my Philippinensian, the UP’s yearbook of graduates then. We are the jubilarians on this year’s centennial of Biology in UP. I put together the 38 pictures of the 1960 graduates of the then botany and zoology departments for them to reminisce.

What surprised me to see in a university yearbook—with 27 messages to graduates—is the absence of any statement on UP’s role in national progress through research or science. There was hardly anything to remind the 1960 graduates that economic development and social transformation must rely on science and technology.

My idea of observing anniversaries is to send a clear message about achievements. These can use valid proofs or indicators showing academic progress and institutional growth. The Institute of Biology can showcase faculty and alumni who have achieved outstanding research performance; and can set an example of a meaningful observance of anniversaries of academic institutions.

I made an assessment of such performance of the former botany and zoology departments and their merged Institute of Biology (IB). Below is a summary:

Yes, Rizal, the glory hour has begun.

For the first time in 100 years of biology in UP, the most important academic function of modern universities—research—has finally come in the Institute of Biology in UP Diliman. This is shown by the well-published members who joined its faculty during the last decade. The transformation can be reproduced UP wide by removing entrenched policies that still prevent the needed changes. With adequate institutional support and proper mentoring by these new scientists in the faculty, IB is on it way to attracting and developing more of their kind.

There was a lack of properly published American faculty in the first two decades of botany and zoology. That situation had not provided the needed research mentors to train Filipino pioneers who took over, and these in turn similarly failed the next generations of faculty members.

That situation lasted until the departments’ final years, when there was still lack of research mentors for young faculty members. Further, even foreign-trained PhDs were hardly able to do research for lack of institutional support. However, former botany and zoology faculty members who moved to other institutions—like MSI, SEAFDEC, and IRRI—became productive scientists, when given adequate institutional support and proper research mentoring.
But the lack of these two requirements should not prevent serious and determined students in becoming future scientists. One can achieve scientist status, through resolved interest and determination, in UP conditions. Other examples of such successful Filipino scientists have been produced under frustrating conditions in the country.

The data show that it normally takes three conditions to make productive researchers—faculty mentor, institution support, and student determination. And predominantly important are the faculty mentor and the institution support.

For example, why do some graduates of UP botany, zoology, or biology become productive researchers in other institutions here and abroad, but not when they remained in the Institute of Biology? This means IB—when celebrating the centennial of biology in UP—cannot claim performance or institutional credit for its graduates who became published scientists elsewhere.

The Institute of Biology, however, is now on the road to join the top research institutes in UP and in the country. If this is sustained, IB can look forward to showcasing institutional growth and academic excellence in a meaningful observance of its next anniversary.

Other indicators and methods of research evaluation are also subjects of concern. The number of times a paper is cited is another objective indicator, which is widely used to measure quality. A study on this will give added basis for evaluating research performance. And this will show who among the pioneer Filipino researchers should be properly recognized. They include those who started the basic taxonomic work in Philippine biology. (May 2010)

Flor Lacanilao is a retired professor of marine science at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City. This is a summary of a retrospective he wrote when asked by the president of the UP Institute of Biology Alumni Association to write about the UP zoology class of 1960, of which he was a member. Please click the attachment for the full text of the article in PDF.

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« Last Edit: May 12, 2010, 02:45:14 PM by florlaca »