Author Topic: Still no signs of reform in Philippine science and education  (Read 4664 times)


  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 50
  • Karma: +1/-0
    • View Profile
    • Email
Still no signs of reform in Philippine science and education
By 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.” (From “The scientific impact of nations,” Nature, the International Weekly Journal of Science)

We have already been getting such threats. But we have yet to see in place the needed preparations to handle them. Crucial are improved science and education. How can our country ever handle the threats if we don’t have enough properly trained scientists—in the natural and social sciences, in engineering, and in math? And how can we produce more of them if national institutions in science and education are not run by such trained scientists and educators? The same problems beset our major universities.

Properly trained scientists refer to those who have contributed to knowledge through research. “The easiest way to assess if one has made any major contributions to one’s field is with the ISI data base called Web of Knowledge.” If you have no free access to the ISI data base, you can get the same information (published papers and citations), but not quite as complete, from Google Scholar. The number of citations per paper is a useful measure of the quality and impact of one’s output.

Most papers you will get by Google Scholar are not valid publications. Hence, you have to count only those published in journals covered in Science Citation Index or SCI (for science, technology, engineering, and math) or Social Sciences Citation Index or SSCI (for social and behavioral sciences). Our failure to use such objective, internationally accepted criteria is the major reason for the poor state of Philippine science and education.

Let me cite as a specific example the National Research Council of the Philippines, which shows continuing problems. These problems become evident if we apply the above indicators for assessing the capability of those making and implementing national programs, starting from the top officials.

I will now quote from the NRCP President’s Report dated June 21, 2011(click this link for the full text):

“When I was first elected President of the National Research Council of the Philippines in 2009, I laid out my vision clearly and projected where I wanted to lead the agency in the scientific community…

“One of the innovations I introduced, which is now being pursued by NRCP, and which the Governing Board supports, is the establishment of an Online Journal. The idea behind this proposal, which the Board hopes to finish within 2011, will have all research studies in the basic sciences funded by NRCP published in the Online Journal, instead of in the usual old journal printed annually by NRCP and distributed to each member of the Council during its annual General Membership Assembly…”
What is the sense in putting up academic journals without enough properly published researchers? Besides, there are already thousands of such journals in existence, journals that are competently managed and adequately peer reviewed (e.g., SCI and SSCI journals), and from which our researchers can learn how to do research better and teach more effectively.

If you look at their websites, you will see similarly conceived and implemented programs in our other science and education institutions—the DOST, NAST, CHED, DepEd, and TESDA. You will see how we have been addressing our national problems with hardly any progress, as I have reviewed in my article “Basic problems in Philippine science and higher education”that has been previously posted in this Forum. That documented review is also the basis of another article of mine, “Democratic governance impedes academic reform,” that has also been posted in this Forum.

As I discussed in those two articles, the innovative incentive system started at UP for outstanding publications using objective criteria (like ISI-indexed publications) resulted in increased research output during the last decade. That incentive system, however, has undergone an unexpected change. Last year, instead of raising the requirements to higher standards like those of higher-impact ISI-indexed journals (covered in SCI or SSCI), as has been done by our neighbor countries, UP made it a requirement for cash incentive the publication of a research study in the Philippine Science Letters, which is not even ISI-indexed. This makes UP set a bad example to other universities.

With substandard approaches like this, how can our total of 178 SCI-indexed publications catch up with those of Singapore’s 3,600, Taiwan’s 10,800, and South Korea’s 16,400 in the year 2005?

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.
« Last Edit: July 18, 2011, 08:24:14 PM by florlaca »