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Adapting to a warmer, harsher world: How resilient is the Philippines?
By Dr. Flor Lacanilao

Are we doing the right preparations for the worst problems facing our nation? Three articles from the leading journals Science and Nature during the last few days give some help and strategies we need to address them.

First is a brief on the Warming and Melting from Science (30 Nov 2012): “Mass loss from the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica account for a large fraction of global sea-level rise. Part of this loss is because of the effects of warmer air temperatures, and another because of the rising ocean temperatures to which they are being exposed. Joughin et al. (“Ice-Sheet Response to Oceanic Forcing,” page 1172) review how ocean-ice interactions are impacting ice sheets… Shepherd et al. (“A Reconciled Estimate of Ice-Sheet Mass Balance,” page 1183) combined data sets produced by satellite altimetry, interferometry, and gravimetry to construct a more robust ice-sheet mass balance for the period between 1992 and 2011. All major regions of the two ice sheets appear to be losing mass, except for East Antarctica. All told, mass loss from the polar ice sheets is contributing about 0.6 millimeters per year (roughly 20% of the total) to the current rate of global sea-level rise.”
Second is Adapting to a warmer world from Nature (29 Nov 2012): “With developed nations doing little to slow climate change, some people  and private sector in underdeveloped and developed countries are building ramps, sea walls, dams, and other measures to adapt to the inevitable devastation.  See what success and failure from them the Philippines can learn. And how to balance short-term adaptation and long-term development efforts.” A solely top-down approach to adaptation —focusing on heavy investment in engineering and infrastructure — will not work as it is expensive and impractical.”

And third is How resilient is your country?, also from Nature (22 Nov 2012): “Extreme events are on the rise. Governments must implement national and integrated risk-management strategies.” Economic losses from natural disasters, worldwide, rose from $528 billion in 1981–1990 to $1,213 billion during 2001–2010. It is clear from experience, and this paper says that the regular use of scientific evidence by the government leaders and the media people is what led to more effective crisis management. Increasing number of heads of states want to make resilience in climate adaptation a priority, but are unsure of the first step. “Good practice demands a combination of quantitative knowledge and leadership at the top.” The author recommends that governments appoint “cabinet-level national-risk officers” like what is done for “enterprise-wide risk management” in the private sector.

The discussions in the above articles show how success of adaptation programs depended on scientific information, and on properly published studies and experts. President Aquino’s cabinet has two such experts who can use such studies to implement their respective programs. They are economist Arsenio Balisacan of NEDA and medical doctor Enrique Ona of DOH. But to insure useful cabinet decisions, more of Aquino’s secretaries should be the kind of Balisacan and Ona. That is, they should also have made major contributions to one's field, as a minimum requirement for the job (“Energy crisis and climate change,” Philippine Daily Inquirer).

Concern raised over badly conceived climate-change adaptation measures
By Dr. Flor Lacanilao

Regarding the work of scientists and media in climate disasters, the typical news report in the Philippines on climate-related issues often lacks evidence-based information, which means properly published experts or studies. For example, the news report “Reclaiming land seen as measure to deal with climate change” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, November 1, 2012) mentioned a department secretary, a bureau director, an architect, a government reclamation agency, and the University of the Philippines National Institute of Geological Science or NIGS (“Key role of scientists & media in climate disasters,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, November 8, 2012). But no scientist or properly published study was cited at all. And the report failed to mention the well-published NIGS geologist Dr. Alfredo Mahar Lagmay. 

Here is another example of a news report in a recent issue of the journal Nature, showing how scientists and engineer scientists discuss plans on climate adaptation:

Malcolm Bowman (who specializes in storm-surge modeling at Stony Brook University in New York) has “advocated a system of sea barriers or dykes,” like those in London, the Netherlands, and Russia. The system pictured by Bowman and others consists of an 8-km-wide barrier, 6 meters high, that can be opened and closed at the entrance to the harbor, and other structures. The cost is about US$15 billion; by way of comparison, estimates of the damage caused by Hurricane “Sandy” is between $30 billion and $50 billion.

On the other hand, some scientists worry that a single focus on sea barriers could be counterproductive—like disrupting river outflow, increasing sedimentation, upsetting ecosystems, and exacerbating flooding in areas that are not protected. Also, sea barriers do not protect against severe storms that produce inland flooding.

Cynthia Rosenzweig (co-chair of the New York climate panel and a senior scientist at NASA) says, “Sandy clearly shows that we have to do the barrier studies now… But I think we need to consider an integrated and holistic set of solutions, and not put all of our eggs in the barriers.”  Scientists and government officials must ensure that any rebuilding is done with the long view of global warming in mind, she adds. (Full text in “Hurricane sweeps US into climate-adaptation debate” (Nature, November 8, 2012)
The way governance of science and education in the Philippines goes, I think the message to the Filipino academic scientist can be seen in the Science editorial last week, which says in part:

“Scientists insist on believable data both in work and in public life. Bright young scientists do not accept nonsense from those in power, and they will not be eternally patient with those responsible for it. The response of the scientist to nonsense is both conceptual and practical: to recognize it, expose it, and try to fix it.”  (“The Scientist as World Citizen,” November 2, 2012).

Education and Teaching / The UP economists and the RH bill
« on: October 06, 2012, 07:17:57 AM »
The UP economists and the RH bill
By Dr. Flor Lacanilao

An important role—in fact, a social responsibility—of natural and social scientists is to help politicians to make useful policy decisions. One way is to actively participate in debates on national issues and to do more to bring the debate to a useful conclusion.

When a debate on a national issue drags for 13 years, as in the case of the Reproductive Health bill, it says a lot about the quality of the debate. Perhaps there has been a communication problem. Are the academic scientists doing their job? Are nonscientists dominating the discussions, and thus confusing the politicians and decision-makers?

Recently, two articles that appeared in the “Talk of the Town” page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer presented opposing views on the RH bill. One article is by 30 University of the Philippines economists: “Population, poverty, politics and RH bill” (July 29, 2012 issue). The other is by Bernardo Villegas, Evelina Atienza, Frank Padilla, Anthony Lumicao, and 15 others: “No need for an RH bill, now or ever” (September 16, 2012 issue).

Surely one would want to know which of the two groups of authors have more credible members to discuss the subject. This would not only help the politicians but also educate the media people and the general public. It should be noted that those without properly published work “lack the necessary expertise to evaluate information correctly.”

Says noted scientist Fred Grinnell in his book Everyday Practice of Science (2009): “The easiest way to assess whether someone has made any major contributions to one’s field is to check with the ISI database called Web of Knowledge. You can use that database to learn the number of publications done by a researcher and whether the published work has been cited by others. If you don’t have access to the Web of Knowledge database, then you can get similar information—albeit not quite as complete—from Google Scholar.”

From the citation information drawn from its Web of Knowledge database, Thomson Reuters determines the most influential researchers in chemistry, physics, physiology or medicine, and economics. Indeed, since inaugurating the Nobel predictions in 2002, 26 of the total of more than 160 Thomson Reuters ‘Citation Laureates’ have gone on to win actual prizes.”

These last few days, I have been doing a Google Scholar Advanced search on the members of the two groups and I found some interesting results (the data are freely accessible). I selected only publications in two peer-reviewed international journals, Thomson ISI’s Social Sciences Citation Index and Science Citation Index. These indexes are widely used indicators in evaluating research and S&T performance in the natural and social sciences; for instance, in ranking countries, universities, and researchers.

Such properly published studies—adequately peer-reviewed and widely accessible for verification—are also referred to as valid publications.

Among the 30 UP economists in the Inquirer article, 10 have 4 to 17 valid publications with an average total of 14.9 citations. They are RV Fabella, AM Balisacan, RL Clarete, JJ Capuno, RA Danao, EM Pernia, GP Sicat, SA Quimbo, OC Solon, and GM Ducanes. Of the remaining 20 authors from UP, 9 each have 1 to 3 publications, and 11 are unpublished (see attached Table of publication data).

On the other hand, among Dr. Bernardo Villegas’ group of 19 authors, only Villegas has valid publications—3 papers with an average of 9.0 citations. The 18 others have no ISI-indexed publications at all.

Note that in two earlier posts, I discussed the issues on the K-12 education program of the Philippines. Those who support it hardly have any valid publications, whereas those who oppose the Philippine K-12 have properly published work.

The above observations and information are crucial for government policy-makers in solving our national problems. They have been established from the experience of developed and fast developing countries. If we are to move forward, I think this issue on assessing expertise should be a major concern not only of our natural and social scientists but more so of our government.     
And for me, I repeat my call—It’s time for the Philippine Congress to Stop RH debate now!

Dr. Flor Lacanilao obtained both his BS and MS in Zoology from the University of the Philippines in Diliman and his PhD, with specialization in comparative endocrinology, from the University of California at Berkeley. He served as professor and chairman of the Zoology Department at UP Diliman and chancellor of UP Visayas. He made pioneering discoveries in neuroendocrinology and led the research group that achieved the first spontaneous breeding of milkfish in captivity.

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Let’s stop debating the RH bill now and improve science, higher education
By Dr. Flor Lacanilao

All problems addressed in the Reproductive Health bill can be solved better by improved science and higher education. Proof of this statement can be accessed freely and read carefully from the scientific and social science literature. There have been many of them in the last two decades. They can simply be searched out with Advanced Google Scholar.

Choose only those from properly published authors and studies—that is, following internationally accepted criteria—that are taken seriously by international experts. Start with the articles cited in any of these posts:

“The dangers in family planning without use of contraceptives”

“Family Planning: Dangers without contraceptives”

Download the attached PDF file at the bottom of this posting for the full text of the chief reference of the above articles: Policy Forum: “Population Policy in Transition in the Developing World” by John Bongaarts and Steven Sinding (Science, Vol.333, July 29, 2011).

Improving higher education and science is not debatable; just put the right people in charge. (On how to select them, see “Crucial role of S&T, education in dev’t” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 21 July 2011). They have the technical expertise to understand scientific advisers—or correctly interpret research information—for lasting solutions to problems.

However, “A chief scientific adviser is no substitute for a ruling elite that is actually engaged with science and engineering” (read “What matters for science is who runs the country” (Nature, 30 August 2012).

A sad example of failure to understand information—based on evidence and thus verifiable—can be seen in a recent Senate hearing, during which senators grilled the NEDA chief on population and economics (see “Neda chief clarifies population terms” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 28 Aug 2012). Note that NEDA chief Arsenio Balisacan, a former dean of UP School of Economics, is one of the country’s top social scientists.

Failure to grasp, or to accept, said properly published authors or studies is the main reason why the RH bill debate has been going on in circles, for so many years now—in fact, over 10 years now.

Let the pros and the cons continue debating the RH bill issues at their own expense, time, and forums. Enough has been said—yet without any useful conclusion—on government time. Congress should vote now—it doesn’t really matter one way of the other—and save money for the country’s other urgent needs.

Besides, many studies report that “Voluntary family-planning programs” have shown sustained declines in fertility and population growth across Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America (read this in the attached PDF file). This kind of non-government voluntary programs has also proven to be a cost-effective approach to reducing population pressures, stimulating economic growth, improving health, and enhancing human freedom.

All of them will enable the Philippines to adapt to and survive the devastating disasters brought about by climate change, which have now started hitting us.

Dr. Flor Lacanilao obtained both his BS and MS in Zoology from the University of the Philippines in Diliman and his PhD, with specialization in comparative endocrinology, from the University of California at Berkeley. He served as professor and chairman of the Zoology Department at UP Diliman and chancellor of UP Visayas. He made pioneering discoveries in neuroendocrinology and led the research group that achieved the first spontaneous breeding of milkfish in captivity.

NOTE: To be able to download the PDF file, you must sign in as a Forum member

The dangers in family planning without use of contraceptives
By Dr. Flor Lacanilao

After a decade of campaigning by global health scientists and civic organizations, the survival of mothers, newborns, and children had finally been embraced as an emergency that demands unprecedented action by all governments.

That has been articulated in a Family Planning Series of the medical journal Lancet (14 July 2012). The articles include “The rebirth of family planning,” “Making family planning a national development priority,” and “Giving women the power to plan their families.”

A key component of all family planning programs is the use of contraceptives (now recognized in the Millennium Development Goals); for example, in preventing, delaying, or spacing of pregnancy. 

Obstacles (e.g., cost of contraceptives, exaggerated fear of side effects, and opposition from spouses), including suggested alternatives to artificial contraception, have resulted in unwanted pregnancies, with heartbreaking consequences—like rampant abortion and maternal death.

The status and outcome of all pregnancies in the developing world in 2008 has been reviewed. And it shows that nearly 40% of all pregnancies are unintended or unwanted. Of these unwanted pregnancies, 48% end in abortions, 12% end in miscarriages, and 40% in unintended births, with detrimental health and economic effects for many women and their families.

The study is reported by J. Bongaarts & S. Sinding in Population Policy in Transition in the Developing World (Science, 29 July 2011).
The same review says that population growth remains rapid in poor countries. Those with funding support have voluntary family-planning programs, which reduce unplanned pregnancies by (a) giving access to, and information about, contraception and (b) by reducing socioeconomic obstacles to their use.

Further, well-run voluntary programs have shown sustained declines in fertility and population growth across Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America. This happens simply by permitting people to realize their individual reproductive goals.

Such programs have proven to be a cost-effective approach to reducing population pressures, improving health, stimulating social & economic transformations, and enhancing adaptation to threats of climate change.

On the the opposition side, however, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle recently issued a circular urging the faithful to converge at the Edsa Shrine on Saturday (Aug 3) for a Mass and rally against the RH bill (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 3 August 2012).

Tagle said, ”We also wish to express why we believe the reproductive health bill is not the solution to our many problems as individuals and as a country as it will even give rise to many other problems more pernicious and pervasive than the ones we face in the present.”

Can the good Archbishop support his statement—that the RH bill will give rise to many other problems more than the ones we face today—to refute the studies (examples cited above) on family planning and contraceptives in the developing world?

Note that in his commentary (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 5 May 2011), John J. Carroll, S.J., shares this observation, that from his more than 25 years of pastoral and social work in Payatas (Quezon City), and seven years of sponsoring natural family planning programs, “I can say that the family is already at great risk and not because of contraceptives.”

Dr. Flor Lacanilao obtained both his BS and MS in Zoology from the University of the Philippines in Diliman and his PhD, with specialization in comparative endocrinology, from the University of California at Berkeley. He served as professor and chairman of the Zoology Department at UP Diliman and chancellor of UP Visayas. He made pioneering discoveries in neuroendocrinology and led the research group that achieved the first spontaneous breeding of milkfish in captivity.

The need for accurate measures to assess the state of the nation
By Dr. Flor Lacanilao

Is President Aquino succeeding where his predecessors failed?   

This can be seen in his third State of the Nation Address (SONA)*—whether his programs and claimed achievements are sustainable, whether the programs are guided by the accepted basic prerequisites of growth, and whether the progress is measured by indicators of equitable well-being.

The two internationally proven prerequisites of sustainable prosperity are higher education and science. Measuring progress with the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has proven to be faulty in some developed countries. It has not benefited our poor communities. How then would you rate the SONA along these lines?

In previous papers (samples cited below), I discussed the reasons why we have been left behind by most of our neighbors during the past five decades. Every new administration, starting with that of President Ferdinand Marcos, had its development programs of reform and a new set of officials-in-charge. Yet every succeeding administration inherited more problems from the previous one. In addition, it faced increasing global threats from terrorism, infectious diseases, and disasters from changing climate.

Persistent problems include poverty, fast population growth, poor basic education, resource overexploitation, environment degradation, graft and corruption, and common crimes.

I have explained that those problems are interrelated, forming vicious circles of cause-and-effect. For example, poverty is partly due to corruption; corruption, partly due to poverty. The same relation exists between poverty and overpopulation; and between overpopulation and poor basic education. The interrelated vicious circles constitute a complex national problem, which every past administration had tried to solve but failed. (See “Only science can solve poverty,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 6/21/2007.)

In 2010, at the start of President Aquino’s term, I posted at online science forums a reminder, calling the attention of the President Aquino, that corruption is not the main cause of poverty. And that stopping corruption will not end poverty. It was then time to educate the public—for the President to address the true causes of national problems. He should at least be able in six years to put in place the established essentials of sustainable growth.

In that commentary, I also said: “Studies abroad and our experience tell us that corruption and poverty form a vicious circle. Whereas honest leadership had reduced corruption and at least, perceived reduced poverty—as was reminiscent of the time of President Magsaysay and President Cory—we saw corruption and poverty mushroom again.”

Our basic education problems are being similarly addressed.  It has become worse because their solution lies also elsewhere. Many studies, including those of Carl Wieman, Nobel laureate in physics, have shown that it is doubtful to make progress at the primary and secondary levels until a higher standard of science learning is set at higher education.  This and other reasons show why DepEd’s K to 12 program is headed for failure (More in “K+12 most likely to fail,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 2/17/2012).

In these two examples of addressing problems—poverty and basic education—failure is easily predictable. But it takes properly trained and experienced natural and social scientists to make such assessment. Many international studies have shown this. Hence, putting such right people in charge, or directly involved, in reform initiatives is another basic prerequisite to successful programs. It is critical in improving higher education and science (“Democratic governance impedes academic reform,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 3/14/2011).

The right people are those who have made major contributions to their respective fields of endeavor, as indicated by properly published works and citations. Important are papers in journals and citations covered in Science Citation Index or Social Sciences Citation Index. Such properly published authors have the necessary expertise to evaluate information correctly.

The lack of such expertise among the wrong people in charge explains why, even with the advice of respected natural and social scientists, the decisions of those in charge—based largely on personal opinion and common sense—often prevailed.

With the mounting problems facing the country—e.g., energy and disasters from changing climate—President Aquino must seriously consider putting more right people in charge. How to choose the right people is described in “Energy crisis and climate change.” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 4/26/2012).

Finally, in reporting achievements, avoid using purely economic indicators. Economist and Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz explains, that a developing country can speed up its GDP growth by over-logging its forests (Nature, 18 Feb 2010). He adds: “What we measure affects what we do. If we have the wrong measures, we will strive for the wrong things.” During the financial crisis in some developed countries, much of the GDP measured growth turned out to be a mirage.
President Aquino has appointed the first academic scientist in his cabinet—Arsenio Balisacan of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA). He is one of the country’s top social scientists/economists. More of his caliber should be in PNoy’s staff, starting with the Commission of Higher Education (CHED) and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). This will insure that their evidence-based views will prevail in the decision-making process. 

The President still has four years to make a difference—to start the real reform that had eluded all past Philippine presidents. With the trust put in him by the Filipino electorate in 2010, he is now the last hope of the Filipino masses and he must not fail.

Dr. Flor Lacanilao obtained both his BS and MS in Zoology from the University of the Philippines in Diliman and his PhD, with specialization in comparative endocrinology, from the University of California at Berkeley. He served as professor and chairman of the Zoology Department at UP Diliman and chancellor of UP Visayas. He made pioneering discoveries in neuroendocrinology and led the research group that achieved the first spontaneous breeding of milkfish in captivity.
*This posting predates by one day President Benigno Aquino III’s scheduled State of the Nation Address on July 23, 2012.

PNoy has still four years to fulfill his promise
By Dr. Flor Lacanilao

In previous posts, I discussed some reasons why we have not been able to move forward in the last five decades. During those years, every new administration had its development programs of reform and a new set of officials in-charge. Yet every succeeding administration not only inherited more problems from the previous one but also faced increasing global threats from terrorism, infectious diseases, and changing climate.

These problems include persistent poverty, population growth, poor basic education, resource overexploitation, environment degradation, graft and corruption, and common crimes. Global threats include national security, public health, and climate-related disasters.

I have discussed them as problems that are interrelated, forming vicious circles of cause-and-effect. Hence, since they form interrelated vicious circles, they constitute a complex national problem. This is one reason why every past administration had tried to solve them but failed. Further, the right people have not been put in charge. (See how to choose the right people by clicking this link to “Energy crisis and climate change.”)

If only the right people had been put in charge of each program, the common cause of the above problems—the poor state of higher education and science—would have been identified and improved. Higher education and science are the two basics of national progress—basics that are recognized by all developed and fast-developing countries.

In 2010, at the start of his term, I posted in the Philippine Science Forum a reminder calling the attention of President Aquino on the above issues. (See excerpts by clicking this link to the article by columnist Domini Torrevillas, “Cory, Ninoy and Noynoy,” in the August 3, 2010 issue of the Philippine Star.) 

I said in that commentary:
“Most Filipinos believe corruption is the cause of poverty; and that stopping corruption will eliminate poverty. It is now time to educate the public—for the President to address the true causes of national problems. He should at least be able in six years to put in place the established essentials of sustainable progress. For these, he will need the help of experienced Filipino researchers. He must not fail.

“President Aquino has still 4 years to make a difference, and start the real reform that eluded all past Philippine presidents.”
Below are relevant short articles that will help the President and the right people who will be put in charge of his crucial programs—starting with higher education and science:

(1) Pass the Books. Hold the Oil.

Education is a better economic driver than a country’s natural resources.

The excerpts below are from Thomas Friedman, author of The World is Flat and columnist of The New York Times. They were shared with us by Ben de Lumen, Professor Emeritus at UC Berkeley, on June 24, 2012. (Click this link for full text of Friedman’s column.)
Every so often someone asks me: “What’s your favorite country, other than your own?”

I’ve always had the same answer: Taiwan.  “Taiwan?  Why Taiwan?” people ask.

Very simple: Because Taiwan is a barren rock in a typhoon-laden sea with no natural resources. It even has to import sand and gravel from China for construction. Yet it has the fourth-largest financial reserves in the world. Because rather than digging in the ground and mining whatever comes up, Taiwan has mined its 23 million people, their talent, energy and intelligence. I always tell my friends in Taiwan: “You’re the luckiest people in the world. You have no oil, no iron ore, no forests, no diamonds, no gold, just a few small deposits of coal and natural gas — and because of that you developed the habits and culture of honing your people’s skills, which turns out to be the most valuable and only truly renewable resource in the world today.
Moses arduously led the Jews for 40 years through the desert — just to bring them to the only country in the Middle East that had no oil. But Moses may have gotten it right, after all. Today, Israel has one of the most innovative economies, and its population enjoys a standard of living most of the oil-rich countries in the region are not able to offer.

In the latest PISA (Program for International Student Assessment), students in Singapore, Finland, South Korea, Hong Kong and Japan stand out as having high PISA scores and few natural resources, while Qatar and Kazakhstan stand out as having the highest oil rents and the lowest PISA scores.

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Algeria, Bahrain, Iran and Syria stood out the same way in a similar 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, or Timss, test, while students from Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey — also Middle East states with few natural resources — scored better.

In sum, knowledge and skills have become the global currency of 21st-century economies, but there is no central bank that prints this currency. Everyone has to decide on their own how much they will print. Sure, it’s great to have oil, gas, and diamonds; they can buy jobs. But they’ll weaken your society in the long run unless they’re used to build schools and a culture of lifelong learning. The thing that will keep you moving forward is always what you bring to the table yourself.

(2) Abandon GNP and GDP

Excerpted from the journal Nature:

It is time to abandon GNP and GDP as the measure of national progress. As an indicator of economic well-being, GNP does not consider sustainability. In the United States, “per capita GNP rose by 49% during 1976-98, whereas per capita ‘genuine progress’ (the economy’s output with environmental and social costs subtracted and added weight given to education, health, etc.) declined by 30%” (“Sustainable consumption,” Science 287:2419, 2000).

GDP is known also to be flawed as an indicator. For example, a developing country can speed up its GDP growth by over-logging its forests, a sustainable resource. “What we measure affects what we do. If we have the wrong measures, we will strive for the wrong things,” says economist Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University, a Nobel laureate and former chief economist at the World Bank (“Progressive thinking,” Nature 463: 849-850, 2010)

When the strong GDP growth in the United States and other countries collapsed during the financial crisis, “much of the measured growth turned out to be a mirage.”

(3) Scientist heads of state

(a) New Egyptian President a Scientist

Excerpted from The Scientist, June 27, 2012

After the popular uprising that ousted longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi narrowly defeated former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq in an election that captivated the Middle East region and the world. Morsi holds a PhD in material science from the University of Southern California (USC) and served as a professor of engineering at California State University at Northridge.

“My vision is for science to be the start of a renaissance in Egypt and for science research to be our weapon against the major problems that our country faces,” Morsi said in a statement.

(b) India's Scholar-Prime Minister Aims for Inclusive Development

Excerpted from Science, February 24, 2012:

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh vowed last month to more than double the nation’s R&D spending to $8 billion a year by 2017. Since taking office in May 2004, Singh has launched initiatives to entice overseas scientists to return home, create elite universities, and establish a grants agency modeled after the U.S. National Science Foundation (see p. 891).

(c) Indian president's strong scientific legacy

Excerpted from SciDev.Net, September 11, 2007:

Indian science has many reasons to be grateful to A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, the country’s recently retired president. He constantly reminded children, politicians and the general public that science and technology are crucial to national development and the fight against poverty. He was confident that the days of a “developed” India were not a distant dream.

(4) So many Chinese leaders are scientists

Excerpted from Science, December 7, 2007:

Chinese Science on the Move. As with all developing countries, recent progress in Chinese science has not always been smooth. Entire systems for local science and international cooperation had to be developed and are still evolving. But the rapid increase in R&D investment—with an annual growth rate of 18% over the past 5 years (the United States, Japan, and the European Union grew at a combined average rate of about 2.9%)—reflects a clear understanding by China’s top political leadership that science and technology (S&T) are critical to their nation’s future. This is not surprising because so many Chinese leaders are scientists and engineers by training. Educated as an engineer, Chinese leader Hu Jintao emphasizes the importance of investing in S&T in virtually every policy address. He included in his 2006 list of “do’s and don’ts” for the Chinese populace: “Uphold science; don’t be ignorant and unenlightened.”

Dr. Flor Lacanilao obtained both his BS and MS in Zoology from the University of the Philippines in Diliman and his PhD, with specialization in comparative endocrinology, from the University of California at Berkeley. He served as professor and chairman of the Zoology Department at UP Diliman and chancellor of UP Visayas. He made pioneering discoveries in neuroendocrinology and led the research group that achieved the first spontaneous breeding of milkfish in captivity.

Philippine K-12: More comments from Filipino academic scientists
By Dr. Flor Lacanilao

I am sharing with Forum members the note below sent to me by Dr. Francis Molina, Associate Program Director at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, commenting on the feedback from academic scientists about the Philippine K-12 as posted on,, and

Dr. Molina was extensively involved in the production of Designs for Science Literacy [AAAS, 2001, Washington, DC] and has been engaged in activities involving K-12, and development of the Science Educator’s Guide to Selecting High-Quality Instructional Materials

April 7, 2012

Subject: Re: Reviewing commentaries on Philippine K-12

Hi Flor,

Thanks for this. It really is a fallacy to think that adding more years by switching to a K-12 scheme will make students learn more. There’s just no empirical evidence for it. I think the key is unburdening the curriculum. I’ve taken the liberty of attaching Chapter 7 from our publication, Designs for Science Literacy. There’s lot of useful stuff in there, but see especially the text I highlighted on pages 211-212 and pg. 235 [Attachment].


Excerpts from Chapter 7: Unburdening the Curriculum

Here are among the many recommendations for improving the coherence and effectiveness of the K-12 curriculum, Designs for Science Literacy:

Pages 211-212:
Improvements in teaching methods and curriculum design may eventually make it possible for students to learn more than they do now, hour for hour, but the current and critical need is for them to acquire at least some important knowledge and skills better, even at the price of covering fewer topics overall. This chapter describes four strategies aimed at reallocating time—time to focus on understanding important facts, principles, and applications in science, mathematics, and technology, not time to enable still more material to be superficially covered. The underlying purpose is to realize a better cost-to-benefit ratio, using time and resources in ways that will maximize students’ eventual science literacy. The strategies are:
• Reduce the number of major topics taught.
• Prune some topics by removing unnecessary details.
• Limit technical vocabulary to essential terms.
• Eliminate wasteful repetition.

Page 235:
Before wholesale easing of the curricular burden can be attempted or accepted, educators will have to believe that reducing the number of topics, pruning ideas within topics, cutting technical vocabulary, and avoiding needless repetition are worth doing and possible.

The main point of this chapter has been to make time for teaching the most important ideas more successfully. But knowing how to expand the treatment of a smaller set of topics is not a trivial challenge. To some extent, all teachers know places where there is not enough time to do what they know needs to be done.

(Click this link to read Chapter 7: Unburdening the Curriculum)


(2)  Angel C. de Dios (Chemistry Dept, Georgetown University, Washington, DC) posted at PhilScience forum, on April 12, two links to new programs, which compares basic education in the U.S. and in the Philippines.

In the U.S.:
A study shows that longer class period gives more “Time for a rigorous and will-rounded education that prepares students for success in college and careers.” (Click this link for full report: “Time Well Spent: Eight Powerful Practices of Successful, Expanded-Time Schools”)

In the Philippines, however:
Education Secretary Armin Luistro announced… Grade 1 pupils for the school year 2012 to 2013 will be spending shorter hours in school—from six contact hours to only four hours—to make education “less stressful” and “more enjoyable” for the young learners. (Click this link for full text of news about Secretary Luistro's announcement: “Shorter hours for Grade 1”)

See also previous post of Angel de Dios by clicking this link to “First things first: A commentary on K+12.”.


(3) The following exchanges of three comments are from the JoseCarilloForum on Education and Teaching. (For full text, click this link to “A critique of some commentaries on the Philippine K-12 program.”)

Eduardo (Jay) Olaguer (Houston Advanced Research Center, 4800 Research Forest Dr, Woodlands, TX, USA):
In summary, the K+12 educational program directly addresses some of the fundamental weaknesses in the pre-university preparation of Filipino college graduates by providing more opportunity to master basic mathematical, scientific, and language skills at the much higher level demanded by global competition. There may have been many successful Filipinos who were the product of the previous 10-year cycle, but their experience is the exception to the rule.

This is the same claim made without valid support by the authors of the Philippine K-12. And, also by most nonscientists in favor of the program.

I stressed in my critique and other papers on Philippine education that the main problem of our basic education is in our higher education, not the other way around. I cited Carl Wieman, a Nobel laureate in physics and director of the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative at the University of British Columbia, in “Reinventing science education.”

Wieman says, “To be sure, the need for more and better science education has not been entirely ignored. But little of this attention has been aimed at post-secondary science education, the only level for which there is data showing how to make substantial improvements without enormous costs. Moreover, it is doubtful that great progress can be made at the primary and secondary levels until a higher standard of science learning is set at the post-secondary level.”

He adds: “Science education research clearly shows that a true understanding of science, as demonstrated by how it is practiced, is not merely about learning information. Rather, it is about developing a way of thinking about a discipline that reflects a particular perception of how ‘knowledge’ is established, its extent and limitations, how it describes nature, and how it can be usefully applied in a variety of contexts. Developing such a way of thinking is a profoundly different experience from learning a set of facts, and requires very different teaching skills.”

Jay, you are the first academic scientist I have read supporting the Philippine K-12 education program.

Eduardo (Jay) Olaguer:
You have definitely started an interesting discussion. Angel de Dios and I have been conversing off-line, only to find out that we actually agree rather than disagree. As I told him, my vote for K-12 is not a vote for government, which plays too large a role in these matters. The real issue for me is not increased access to education beyond the 10-yr cycle, but the quality of higher education. So in that sense, you and I see eye to eye. More will be gained in the long run by improving the quality of higher education than by increasing access to a diluted program, however many years it consists of. But to do this, you must take away the role of diploma mills in providing what only amounts to remedial education. By insisting on a higher standard of preparation which can be met by less comprehensive and therefore more efficient and less pretentious institutions than the typical Filipino diploma mill university, you free the best colleges and universities to improve course content and opportunities for faculty to use advanced knowledge in a way that makes a difference.

To know more about the K to 12 Basic Education Program, visit or e-mail

A critique of some commentaries on the Philippine K-12 program
By Dr. Flor Lacanilao

Note that in my critiques below, the comments of scientists (1 to 3) on the Philippine K-12 program are supported by properly published studies or authorities, whereas those by nonscientists (4 to 8 ) are not. Note further that the nonscientist authors and cited authorities include prominent people in education, and that these nonscientist authors and cited authorities enjoy wide media coverage. I think this situation explains the present state of Philippine education.  [My comments are in brackets]

A. Views of Filipino academic scientists

[By definition, academic scientists are defined as those who have made a major contribution or contributions to one’s field as shown by publications in peer-reviewed international journals; that is, in journals covered in Science Citation Index (SCI) or Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI). You can find that out with Google Scholar.]

1.  The basic education system of the Philippines faces two major problems: (1) high dropout rates in primary and secondary schools, and (2) lack of mastery of specific skills and content as reflected in poor performance in standard tests for both Grade IV and Grade VIII (2nd year high school) students. Unfortunately, the proposed K+12 curriculum does not directly address these problems.

Click this link to read the full text: “First things first: A commentary on K+12”

2.  The Philippines has embarked on an enormous P150-billion project—the K to 12—that is set to add as part of the basic education a mandatory kindergarten and an additional two years to the high school. The mandatory kindergarten is not contentious because there is empirical evidence that it does improve learning outcomes. It is the learning outcomes that should concern us here. I still have to see evidence (perhaps I did not look hard enough) that the additional two years of high school will improve learning performance.

Click this link to read the full text: “K to 12: Wasteland”

3.  The controversial K-12 (kindergarten to grade 12) is not really controversial. All commentaries I have read by Filipino academic scientists are not in favor of the new K-12 program (For example,  Science and K+12, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 6 Feb 2012). On the other hand, Filipino authors supporting it are not natural or social scientists (without valid publications or properly published work), regardless of their position (e.g., Group launches program to save RP education, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 28 Jan 2010).

Click this link to read the full text: “K+12 most likely to fail”

B. Views of nonscientist Filipino educators and cited authors 

[By definition, nonscientist Filipino educators and cited authors are those without any major contribution to one’s field as shown by lack of publications in peer-reviewed international journals; that is, in journals covered in Science Citation Index (SCI) or Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI). You can check this with Google Scholar.]

4.  The central feature of the K to 12 Program is the upgrading of the basic education curriculum to ensure that learners acquire the relevant knowledge and skills they will need to become productive members of society… With the participation of the Commission on Higher Education and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, the program has the capability of offering professionally designed classes and apprenticeships in sports, the arts, middle-level skills, entrepreneurship, and applied math and sciences. [Note that officials of CHED and TESDA are not academic scientists.]

Click this link to read the full text: “The K to 12 curriculum: Our first step to recovery”

5.  Meanwhile, Brother Armin remains upbeat, saying “Genuine reform needs at least a generation to take root. We’ll just have to be happy with being part of planting the seed.” [Commentaries by academic scientists, however, show that this planted seed will either not grow or has been planted in infertile soil.]

Click this link to read the full text: “Building a literate society”

6.  The delay (referring to the implementation of the K-12 system) has already caused considerable damage. The truncated basic education cycle exerted a perverse effect on the entire educational system… Filipino students, while studying more, were learning less because they were not getting enough time to master basic concepts.

[The above claims, however, are not supported by properly published studies or authors.]

Click this link to read the full text: “Returns on higher education”

7.  Adding two years to the present 10-year basic education cycle is “an absolutely essential reform” to put the country’s public education system at par with the rest of the world, an international education expert said on Wednesday… “I actually don’t see how people can disagree with it,” said Shaeffer before an audience of top Philippine education officials and representatives from various schools.

[This so-called international expert has only 2 SSCI published paper; none in SCI. He did not cite any properly published study or author, just like others who have made commentaries supporting the Philippine K-12.]

Click this link to read the full text: “K+12 program ‘absolutely essential,’ says expert”

8.  Department Order No. 74, issued in 2009, institutionalized mother tongue-based multilingual education (MTBMLE) as a fundamental policy in our formal and non-formal education… the Department of Education has decided to use the L1 as medium of instruction in all kindergarten and Grade 1 classes nationwide effective June 2012 under the new K-12 curriculum… This is precisely what the 2nd Philippine Conference-Workshop on Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education aims to inculcate in us… The keynote speakers are international literacy consultant Dr. Kimmo Kosonen and our very own Valenzuela City Rep. Magtanggol Gunigundo.

[The keynote speaker has only 2 SSCI and no SCI published papers; the other speaker has none. See also commentary 1.]

Click this link to read the full text: “A sense of where we are”

Dr. Flor Lacanilao obtained both his BS and MS in Zoology from the University of the Philippines in Diliman and his PhD, with specialization in comparative endocrinology, from the University of California at Berkeley. He served as professor and chairman of the Zoology Department at UP Diliman and chancellor of UP Visayas. He made pioneering discoveries in neuroendocrinology and led the research group that achieved the first spontaneous breeding of milkfish in captivity.

Education and Teaching / Lone scientist in DOST has resigned
« on: March 30, 2012, 05:42:59 PM »
Lone scientist in DOST has resigned
By Dr. Flor Lacanilao

Pagasa chief retires early
(Philippine Star, March 15, 2012)

Undersecretary Graciano Yumul has opted for early retirement from public service, effective March 12, an official of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) announced yesterday. The reason for the resignation was not clear.

Retirement, resignation? At 52 years old? I hope Jun Yumul is in good health.   

Amid such pleasant news as the following,

“Philippines seen to finally make investment grade” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, Mar 28, 2012),
“Philippines used Japan aid well, says envoy” (Philippine Star, Mar 28, 2012), and
“Historic first: Tourist arrivals hit 400K in January” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, Mar 28, 2012),

it was really sad to hear that the only scientist in the country’s S&T department had to resign.

When Usec Yumul resigned, he was the only properly published of the DOST’s seven top officials. The rest have not made any contributions to their respective fields; that is, no valid published works. This statement can be verified with the ISI database called Web of Knowledge, or with the freely accessible Google Scholar and Science Citation Index (SCI) or Social Sciences Citation Index.

Jun Yumul has 51 ISI-indexed publications, 27 as lead or first author, in 15 different journal titles. They include 24 SCI-indexed papers, 11 as sole or first author, in 9 journal titles.

He is easily one of the best published in the entire University of the Philippines. I hope he would return to UP Diliman, train more future Filipino scientists, and continue promoting public understanding of science. This social responsibility of scientists is urgently needed by our government leaders, media people, and general public. 

His replacement as undersecretary for research and development at DOST is UP’s Dr. Amelia Guevara. Although with less published papers, she is now the only scientist among senior officials of our S&T department.

On 1 Aug 2010, I posted in PhilScience, “How the President can fulfill the Philippine dream.” It said in part, “If the current crisis is to yield… enviable models for scientifically driven economic advance, scientists with research experience and applicable ideas must speak out so the new administration can hear.”

Click the indicated link to read more of that post as excerpted in “Cory, Ninoy and Noynoy” by Domini Torrevillas (Philippine Star, August 03, 2010).

I don’t tire repeating, “Scientists who mute their voices to avoid irritating colleagues do not help the overall science program.” (Dan Koshland Jr., Editor-in-Chief emeritus, Science 259:1379, 1993)

Philippine science: “Time for a fresh start”
By Dr. Flor Lacanilao

This week’s Nature editorial (“A Russian renaissance?”) gives some ideas on how to reform Philippine science. Think of the Philippines while reading it.

Vladimir Putin’s promise to increase research spending is welcome — but his country’s scientific system needs a complete overhaul.

If science is to have a constructive role in shaping Russia’s future, Putin must tackle these problems as forcefully as possible. Economists say that a key test of his leadership will be how far he is prepared to go to reform the economy; his agenda should also include kick-starting overdue scientific reform. Rather than relying on the advice of an exclusive inner circle of buddies and dignitaries, as he has in the past, Putin should set up a truly independent scientific advisory council, ideally involving foreign scientists, to guide him through the necessary changes. Russia’s partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, which will help to set up a new research university in Skolkovo, near Moscow, is a first step in that direction. The creation of a well-funded granting agency for university research, with transparent and fair procedures, would be a perfect sequel.”
(Full text at Nature 15 March 2012)

In 2007, another editorial in Nature (4 Oct 2007, “Time for a fresh start”) describes the state of science in Russia. Reading it reminds one of the state of science in the Philippines. I paraphrased the editorial—inserting Philippine conditions where appropriate—and wrote a piece to describe the state and problems of science in the country. It was posted as “Philippine science: Time for a fresh start” in 2008.
Fifty years after putting up an S&T agency (DOST) and 30 years after putting up a national science academy (NAST), the Philippines has yet to find a scientific system that is anything close to meeting its twenty-first century needs.

The academy’s measurable scientific output is in decline, and yet many (perhaps most) of its members are stubbornly opposing all proposals for reform, whether they emanate from the academy itself or from outside. For example, the publications data of Filipino biologists in the attached table shows a clear picture of the serious problem (at links above).

Getting scientific papers published in international journals, for example, is essential for researchers from Boston to Beijing. But at most government science agencies and organizations they don’t care about publication lists and impact factors, and many researchers regard as impertinent the idea that research careers should depend on papers in “foreign” journals. The very notion of international peer review is still not accepted by the old guard.

All this must change. The academy needs to make sure that the limited funds are allocated, in a competitive and transparent way, to the best groups and projects in each field. This is even more important that public research spending is increasing. And with the absence of stringent quality-management, the extra money is likely to dissolve in nepotism and ill-reviewed projects.

A thorough evaluation of the entire science enterprise, to be done by respected scientists from here (many of them are listed in the table) and abroad, would be the best way to commence modernization. Further neglect of reform will cement only the academy’s decline into mediocrity or obsolescence, and foster yet more emigration of young talent.

See full text and table of Filipino scientists in biological sciences at links given above. Out of the 53 scientists that made the cutoff in biological sciences in 2008, 25 were from SEAFDEC Philippines and 11 from UP Marine Science Institute.  Nine National Scientists in biological and related fields did not make it to the list. (March 16, 2012)

Dr. Flor Lacanilao obtained both his BS and MS in Zoology from the University of the Philippines in Diliman and his PhD, with specialization in comparative endocrinology, from the University of California at Berkeley. He served as professor and chairman of the Zoology Department at UP Diliman and chancellor of UP Visayas. He made pioneering discoveries in neuroendocrinology and led the research group that achieved the first spontaneous breeding of milkfish in captivity.

Climate change: What more can science organizations do?
By Dr. Flor Lacanilao

From global terrorism and the spread of disease to the dangers of global warming, we are increasingly facing the sorts of threats for which governments everywhere will need to turn to their scientists.—“The scientific impact of nations,” Nature, 15 July 2004

Perhaps no other problem in this century threatens us more, in magnitude of destruction and death, than climate change. From the impacts of climate change alone—e.g., typhoons, floods, landslides—we have seen manifestations of their increasing frequency and damage, with the government still unprepared. And to think that yet to come are its impacts on food production systems (agriculture and fisheries), communicable diseases, displacement, migration, etc. Our underdevelopment, persistent poverty, and archipelagic conditions make the Philippines even more vulnerable.

The scientists referred to are the researchers—in natural and social sciences, engineering, technology, and math—who produce information, which can be useful information in the form of knowledge if research is done properly; hence, the importance of doing research properly (see Fig. 1 in a talk of mine on “Doing research for development”).

In addition to producing information/knowledge, scientists also have the social responsibility to disseminate useful information (through community service), and to use it for development programs, education, policy-making, etc. Together with research, they are what we call R&D (Fig. 2 in “Doing research for development”).

An important role of science organizations is promoting R&D. Consider research first. In their annual scientific meetings or conferences, most of our science organizations are unaware that study results are presented for two reasons: (1) to inform the audience, and (2) to invite respected scientists in the audience to comment on the presented paper (preliminary peer review).

Comments improve the manuscript before submission to a chosen primary journal. This crucial step—submitting research manuscript to peer-reviewed international journal—ensures proper publication. Such journals have two important features: adequate peer review of the manuscript and wide accessibility for peer verification of published results.

Otherwise, research is not completed; or, if published elsewhere—e.g., conference proceedings, Philippine journals, institutional reports, or newsletters—and are not adequately peer reviewed, the research output is just gray literature (as seen in Fig.1). This is the kind of research paper that’s largely published in the country (see my paper on “Continuing problems with gray literature”).

Science or professional organizations also have an important role in disseminating and using scientific information, the second part of R&D or development phase (seen in Fig.2). An example is promoting public understanding of science or of climate change.  Program success will be easier the better the research track record of the organization’s membership; that is, whether the majority of the members are properly published.       

Recently, concerned members of The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service (TOWNS) launched an “information caravan” on climate change to deliver relevant scientific information to local government units. Among our top scientists in the group are Helen Yap of UP Diliman Marine Science Institute and Jurgenne Primavera of SEAFDEC in Iloilo. (Rina Jimenez-David reported on this in “A compact for growth” in the March 7, 2012 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.)
My only concern is that in many group activities in the country, a common practice is making group decision by majority rule to settle opposing views (“Democratic governance impedes academic reform”).

A likely problem arises on how to agree with research and science issues, when the properly published scientists in the group are a minority. But confronted with the increasing threats of devastation from changing climate, I think it is possible for such a group discussing such issues to come to a useful conclusion—and ensure program success. I trust Jurgenne, Helen, and the rest of TOWNS will see this through. And show the government leaders and media people the need to turn to scientists when dealing with important national problems. 

Dr. Flor Lacanilao obtained both his BS and MS in Zoology from the University of the Philippines in Diliman and his PhD, with specialization in comparative endocrinology, from the University of California at Berkeley. He served as professor and chairman of the Zoology Department at UP Diliman and chancellor of UP Visayas. He made pioneering discoveries in neuroendocrinology and led the research group that achieved the first spontaneous breeding of milkfish in captivity.


Propagating errors, Perpetuating Mediocrity
By Dr. Flor Lacanilao

Our problem with errors in basic education textbooks is just one of the problems of basic education, which are still getting worse. The reason: they are just effects--symptoms--of the poor state of higher education.  This has been shown in many studies abroad on education reform, and posted in this forum. Let me show an example of a higher education problem, also with books,

Recently, my attention was called to an article by professor Michael Tan, a dean in UP Diliman and Inquirer columnist, about Filipino books (Inquirer, 25 Nov 2011). He says in part: 

“Paging professor emeritus and marine scientist Flor Lacanilao and his e-group, which has been complaining about the lack of scientific journal publications. I think something has to be done as well about writing natural science books for the public. Look at the awards given out for this category in recent years. In 2003 there was Fishes of the Philippines by Genevieve Broad. (It took a British Volunteer to produce that much-needed book.)  No awards were given in 2004 and 2005. In 2006 the winners were A Guide to Families of Common Flowering Plants in the Philippines and Introduction to Complementary and Alternative Medicine. In 2007 it was Living with Nature in Our Times and in 2008 it was Diabetes is BitterSweet. After two years without awards, Grace Reyes’ Watersheds Sheltering Life made it this year.”

Further, Michael Tan says, that in medicine, “so far, only three books have received awards: 
The Healing Cut: Filipino Surgeons Write about Human Drama edited by Maria Socorro Naguit (2000), The Truth About Coconut Oil by Conrado Dayrit (2005), and Bone Tumors in Filipinos by Edward Wang and Ariel Vergel de Dios (2007).  There have been no National Book Awards for medicine since then.”

First, I am not a professor emeritus. 

Second, the problem pointed out is the lack of science books rather than their poor quality.

Third, we can’t promote “writing natural science books for the public” when there is “the lack of scientific journal publications” by our academics--in the same way, “It is doubtful that great progress can be made at the primary and secondary levels until a higher standard of science learning is set at the post-secondary level.” (Carl Wieman, Nobel laureate in physics.)

Fourth, the poor quality of the books says a lot about the authors and the award panels.

Fifth, book awards in science should be decided by a panel of academic scientists, following internationally accepted criteria.

Now, examine the 9 award-winning books.

First, the British Volunteer author of the first book mentioned does not have any valid published work in SCI-indexed journals.

Second, among the Filipino authors and editor of the remaining 8 books, you will hardly find anyone published in at least 3 different SCI-indexed journals, as sole and first author.

Third, only Edward Wang (University of Illinois, etc.), the lead author of Bone Tumors in Filipinos, is well published.

Finally, with Google Scholar or PubMed, find out the truth about the much-publicized virgin coconut oil, featured in Conrado Dayrit's book, The Truth About Coconut Oil (read, “Assessing the reliability of herbal products” and “Research on medicinal plants”).

The problems with Philippine science books are reflections of the country's system of higher education. In Reforming Philippines Science, we say: A culture has developed wherein improper practices are accepted as the norm. The CHED and DOST give grants to non-publishing researchers and do not expect peer-reviewed publications from them. Without significant track-records in research and proper publication, they train future scientists, evaluate research proposals, sit in awards committees, and become higher education and science administrators.

We also noted in the book that there are notable exceptions—individuals who have done world-class research and published books. They are from our leading R&D and academic institutions, in which research and proper publication have become part of the cultural norm. To us, it is not a triumph but a tragedy that they are so few. Below are examples.

Field guide and atlas of the seaweed resources of the Philippines: Volume 2, (2004). 261 p. Gavino Trono of the UP Mar Sci Inst

Handbook of the Mangroves of the Philippines – Panay (2004). 106 p.  Jurgenne H Primavera et al. of SEAFDEC Iloilo.

Nutrition in Tropical Aquaculture, (2002). 221 p.  Oseni Millamena et al., (eds.) of SEADEC Iloilo.

Selected Essays on Science and Technology for Securing a Better Philippines, (2008). Gisella Concepcion, Eduardo Padlan, and Caesar Saloma (eds.) of UP MSI and UP Nat'l Inst Phys.

There are many more science books by well-published scientists from SEAFDEC Iloilo (  and MSI (site unavailable now).

The quality and integrity of a science book depends on the authors track record in research. They also depend on the quality of the bibliography added to the book. Hence, a book or article by unpublished or poorly published author(s), and citing largely gray literature and unpublished papers/reports, are propagating errors rather than reliable information (see Continuing problems with gray literature).

Information produced from research is disseminated by academics to students and the public; and by the media people and the internet. The quality and validity of the information decide the state of education, public literacy, development programs, and policy-making—all of which in turn will determine the country’s development, or underdevelopment, through propagating errors and perpetuating mediocrity. (See also, Problems with media and scientists  or at,

Hence, the collaborative role of academic scientists and science-literate media people is crucial in promoting public understanding of science and reforming Philippine education system.

Education and Teaching / Training the future Filipino academics
« on: January 20, 2012, 02:48:56 PM »
Training the future Filipino academics
By Dr. Flor Lacanilao

Below is a brief on UP Diliman’s disaster response program sent to me by Chancellor Caesar Saloma last January 2, 2012. My reply to Chancellor Saloma’s brief immediately follows.

Dear Dr Lacanilao/Sir:

Best wishes for the New Year!

Let me provide you with brief update on actions taken by UP Diliman in areas dealing with the impact of natural (weather, climate, earthquake, etc) phenomena on the Philippine population.

UPD has been engaged in efforts to improve the accuracy of our understanding of risk management and disaster response (RM-DR) in the country. Researchers from MSI, NIGS and more recently, the College of Engineering are carrying out field research work in different parts of the country and helping local communities get a better handle of natural and man-made disasters.

The week before we went off for Christmas break, UPD signed the MOA for the Nationwide Disaster Risk Exposure and Assessment for Mitigation (DREAM) Program with the DOST. The PhP1.6B Program aims to develop a 3-D national elevation and resource information data set that will be extremely useful for risk management and disaster response (RM-DR).

The DREAM research program is headed by Dr Eric Paringit (Geodetic Engineering Department) and will involve researchers both from CoE, CS and other academic units of UPD.

On the local front, UPD through the OVCRD in particular, is developing an RM-DR protocol that is able to coordinate and utilize more effectively and efficiently the various resources (University Health Service, LGUs, Security Services, Academic Units, etc) that are available to the UPD community. The UPD campus is regularly visited by typhoons every year and we need to improve our ability to minimize damage and to resume normal operations immediately.

UPD will also work closely with other UP constituent universities to develop an RM-DR protocol for the UP System.

UPD needs to constantly improve its own scientific and technical capability in RM-DR since the Philippines is prone to natural disasters due to its geographic location and rapidly increasing (and largely poor) population that amplifies the socio-economic impact of such disasters. Any improvement will benefit directly the entire country and its population.

UPD still needs to train more PhD graduates in RM-DR and enlarge our small pool of experts who are already overwhelmed by the magnitude of the recent catastrophes.

Maraming salamat po. Good luck and more power!

Sincerely yours,
Caesar Saloma
Caesar Saloma, PhD FSPP SMOSA
Professor, National Institute of Physics
University of the Philippines Diliman
Quezon City 1101, Philippines

My rejoinder to Chancellor Saloma’s response:

Thanks, Caesar, for sharing with me the UPD’s DREAM program. I think this is a good first response to the climate disasters that have been causing much damage to life and property—that  is, to put at task experienced people. The nation cannot ask for more, under the present poor-expertise condition I have described.

For urgent response like this, my quick search shows that Eric Paringit has enough experience to head the group. Another team of properly published scientists from various disciplines, however, should be carefully selected to constitute a second group. This will prepare and implement a long-range program for climate adaptation.

This second team can be formed with UP faculties; I know there is enough of the right people. This group will also design the program for proper training of the next generation of climate adaptation scientists, from present and new grad students. I suggest UP should stop referring to the PhD as the standard for academic qualification. This was the mistake of Roger Posadas in his 10 years as first dean of UPD’s College of Science—with the objective of having in the CS an all-PhD faculty. I trust changes will continue with you in charge.     
In your last paragraph you said, “UPD still needs to train more PhD graduates in RM-DR and enlarge our small pool of experts. . .” 

Note that “The PhD degree is not an end in itself but a training for research work. The system of awarding doctorates for unpublished and unpublishable theses is overdue for reform.” (The thesis that won't go away, Nature 331: 497-498, 1988.)  That is to say, the PhD degree is not an achievement that we usually recognize as an academic performance. It is just a promise; valid publications are the performance—the achievement—that entitles one to merit points.   .

The country needs trained scientists, properly published—in SCI and SSCI journals. My emphasis on such journals is to clarify the PhD degree and avoid the gray literature. With your renewed leadership, the government's P1.6 billion program, unlike the former ESEP that to me was a joke, should make a difference. (Problems with higher education 6. Key issues 1)

It is sad to see science and social science organizations in the country continuing to hold meetings or conferences where the papers presented are not published properly. Many forget that such meetings are just an opportunity for preliminary peer review of a research manuscript before submission to a primary journal for the formal, adequate peer review, and proper publication to ensure verification of results.

Instead, they think a conference proceedings paper completes or concludes a research work. And the irony of this is that in all our universities, the output gives the author merit points (just like the PhD degree) for promotion, recognition, or even award.

Such practice—one that often propagates errors and perpetuates mediocrity—will change if UP would start producing the new set of graduate faculty for other universities in the country. And for this, UP Diliman has to develop into our first research university.

I maintain that for UP to start such transformation, develop real academic excellence, and assert its leadership, it should seriously debate the contention that Democratic governance impedes academic reform.  Key to real reform starts with proper training of our future scientists and academics, on whom will depend changes in the country's educational system at all levels.

Best regards,

Dr. Flor Lacanilao obtained both his BS and MS in Zoology from the University of the Philippines in Diliman and his PhD, with specialization in comparative endocrinology, from the University of California at Berkeley. He served as professor and chairman of the Zoology Department at UP Diliman and chancellor of UP Visayas. He made pioneering discoveries in neuroendocrinology and led the research group that achieved the first spontaneous breeding of milkfish in captivity.

Education and Teaching / Problems with higher education 6. Key issues 1
« on: January 03, 2012, 09:18:38 AM »
Problems with higher education 6. Key issues 1
By Dr. Flor Lacanilao

This is a continuation of the Higher Education’s Role in Adapting to a Changing Climate. Its key issues are recurring topics in my posts, and I don’t see them getting resolved during the rest of my lifetime.

“Colleges and universities face clear and growing risks from climate disruption, and it is critical that presidents, trustees and those with fiduciary responsibility for these institutions be aware of these risks.”

After the recent climate disasters that hit the country, higher education officials are now aware of the scale and urgency of more threats from changing climate.  But are they prepared to take appropriate adaptation actions, like “through education, research, operations, and community engagement efforts?”

They can learn from the report of the “American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment” mentioned above, and the subject of my earlier post. The report was prepared through the contributions of 11 college and university officials, including 4 presidents, From the group composition, field of expertise, research track record, and academic functions, a lot can be learned by our higher education officials (see Table below of publications I prepared; also attached).

Note, for instance, that the interdisciplinary team is composed of published academics in natural and social sciences and humanities. Note further, that those published in the social sciences and humanities combined outnumber those in the natural sciences 6 to 4.

I spent some time preparing this table of published academics to find some information useful for adaptation to the climate-related disasters—floods and landslides in particular—that have caused many lives and suffering among our poor communities. Information we need are the causes and appropriate actions “through education, research, operations, and community engagement efforts” emphasized in the mentioned report.

The table shows the important role of published researchers in the social sciences and humanities—6 out of 10—in adaptation to changing climate. This important role of social scientists is also seen in the 19-author Science article (Policy Forum), Preparing for Resettlement Associated with Climate Change, I cited in an earlier post.

The table also shows the importance of putting the right people in charge—4 college and university scientist-presidents, 3 of whom are in the social sciences and humanities. A closer look at the table and footnotes will give more useful information to a serious and qualified person in-charge.

For instance, the two top scientists in the team—Overpeck and Mills—are respectively physical and biological scientists, who provide the explanations on the causes and effects of climate change. And with Google Scholar, Overpeck is seen as a top climate scientist, who has 11 papers in Science, 9 in Nature, and 4 in PNAS, mostly as sole and first author (I stopped counting the rest of his numerous published papers).

One last point on the table, note that Nilda Mesa, assistant Vice President for Environmental Stewardship, Columbia University, is the only unpublished member of the group. I couldn’t find any valid publications with Google Scholar, although a simple Google search gave thousands of entries, including those showing popular speaking engagements on education and environment issues. She must be in the team for some important reasons.

With the right people put in charge of important problems, we can expect the solutions we urgently need. But what do we get from commentaries by nonscientists and unpublished academics about recent floods and landslides? They are largely blaming denuded forests. Qualified geologists I know have other explanation, which point to numerous uprooted trees, after continuous heavy rainfall, carried down along with massive landslides.
An example of commentaries by those without the subject expertise are seen in this week’s “Talk of the Town” features in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Building resilience and adaptation and Business risks and climate change: New iteration.

You will notice, in most commentaries we get from our major dailies—about reform in education and science, or climate change—are by those who have not made any major contributions to one’s field, unlike those that can be seen in the table here (below or attached).

Hence, they lack the necessary expertise to evaluate information correctly, and fail to mention or discuss the basic causes and culprits of problems, foremost of which is failure to put the right people in change.

And since discussing causes and culprits will need a search with Web of Knowledge or Google Scholar (as I have explained before and have done in preparing the Table), this would reveal the author’s lack of credibility on the subject.

Are we going to see more of this kind of largely entertainment pieces? Needed changes can hardly be expected from the CHED, DOST, NAST, or from the climate commission, the top officials of which lack the essential requirement for the job, as previously discussed in this forum.

And if UP Diliman, the top university in the country and headed by our top physical scientist, again fails to lead and to do its job, the next generations will see more severe devastation and victims.

aAll publications are in ISI-indexed journals covered in SSCI, AHCI,    or SCI;  obtained with Google Scholar on 26-30 Dec 2011.  Only a partial list is shown for those with numerous publications. ISI, Institute for Scientific Information;  SSCI, Social Sciences Citation Index;
AHCI, Arts and Humanities Citation Index;  SCI, Science Citation Index.
b( ), number  of papers with sole or first authorship.

Contributors and university functions of those who contributed to the report, Higher Education’s Role in Adapting to a Changing Climate:
 1. John Mills,                  President,   Paul Smith’s College of Arts and Sciences
 2. John M. Anderson         President,   Alfred State College
 3. David A. Caruso       President,   Antioch University
 4. John J. Sbrega           President,   Bristol Community College
 5. Jonathan Overpeck       Co-Director, Institute of the Environment, University of Arizona
 6. Julian Agyeman        Department Chair, urban & environmental planning, Tufts University
 7. Elisabeth Hamin            Assoc Professor of Regional Planning, University of Massachusetts
 8. Peter Bardaglio             Director, County Climate Protection Initiative, former Provost, Ithaca      
 9. Lynne Carter               Director, Adaptation Network, Louisiana State University
10. James Buizer                Director for climate adaptation, University of Arizona
11. Nilda Mesa               Assist Vice President for Environmental Stewardship, Columbia University 

Dr. Flor Lacanilao obtained both his BS and MS in Zoology from the University of the Philippines in Diliman and his PhD, with specialization in comparative endocrinology, from the University of California at Berkeley. He served as professor and chairman of the Zoology Department at UP Diliman and chancellor of UP Visayas. He made pioneering discoveries in neuroendocrinology and led the research group that achieved the first spontaneous breeding of milkfish in captivity.

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