Author Topic: PNoy’s science policy insults scientists  (Read 13944 times)

florlaca

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PNoy’s science policy insults scientists
« on: July 26, 2011, 07:55:09 PM »
PNoy’s science policy insults scientists
By Flor Lacanilao

Bruce Alberts, editor-in-chief of Science and for 12 years president of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, says in an article in the magazine emphasizing the importance of science in policymaking: “Over the long run, any nation that makes crucial decisions while ignoring science is doomed.” It is critical that national legislation be based on what science knows about potential harm, he added.

In this context, it is alarming that President Benigno Aquino III’s science report in his State of the Nation Address last July 25, 2011 ignores the overwhelming consensus that scientific research is a prerequisite to technological development. With such practices, Alberts observes, it will be difficult to make wise decisions.

In his SONA, President Aquino said: “Creativity is in display with the innovations that are already being implemented. We have developed low-cost traps that kill mosquito larvae, probably contributing to the nearly fourteen percent decrease in dengue incidents; coconut coir fibers that are normally just disposed of have been used as a cost-effective way to strengthen our roads; we have landslide sensors that warn when soil erosion has reached dangerous levels; we have developed early flood warning systems for riverside communities. All of these are products of Filipino creativity.”

But we are already in the 21st century. Innovations like these are no longer done.

The President continued: “DOST* and UP have even teamed up to develop a prototype monorail system, which could potentially provide a home grown mass transport solution that would cost us as little as 100 million pesos per kilometer, much cheaper than the current cost of similar mass transit systems. . . I am telling you now: We can dream about them, we are capable of achieving them, and we will achieve them.”

Can the DOST and UP personnel involved in this project show—with properly-published studies—the cost-effective, safety, capability claim for these innovations? 

On the other hand, it can be shown that in its over 50 years of existence, the DOST has been funding and announcing inventions and innovations, which “are products of Filipino creativity.” However, these were not backed by properly done research by published scientists. And during this period, the Philippines, from second only to Japan, has been left behind by no less than 12 Asian countries.

Further, our stunted growth of scientific capability has been shown by our S&T performance (this is measured by the number of scientific publications in peer-reviewed international journals). In 2005, our total scientific publications (in high-impact journals) were only 178, compared to those of Singapore’s 3,600-plus, Taiwan’s 10,800 and South Korea’s 16,400. China in 2009 produced 125,000.

“The environment in which decisions are made in a democracy will always be highly politicized, but it is crucial that both sides of any argument pay close attention both to what science knows and how that knowledge has been gained” Alberts concludes his article in Science.
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*DOST is the acronym for the Philippine Department of Science and Technology.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
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.

Joe Carillo

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Re: PNoy’s science policy insults scientists
« Reply #1 on: August 19, 2011, 10:01:25 AM »
Ignoring the distinction between science policy and technology policy

Response of Dr. Roger Posadas to Dr. Flor Lacanilao’s posting (July 27, 2011):

Hi Flor,

Well, here you go again shooting off your mouth with your criticism of P-Noy’s Science Policy and showing your illiteracy about S&T policies, the R&D and innovation processes, and industrial and technological catch-up.

In your previous commentaries, you had been calling for “literate scientists” or what you defined to be “those who know not only research but also how it leads to development (R&D) and who do something about it.” I presume that you consider yourself a “literate scientist.” However, while I might concede that you know how to do research properly and how to publish research results in SCI-indexed journals, I strongly doubt whether you know anything about the “D” part of R&D—the process that that is concerned with taking an invention (the output of applied research), developing it into prototypes, testing these for marketability and manufacturability, and preparing a business plan for its commercialization. I also question your knowledge regarding the interconnections between research, innovation, competitiveness, and national development. My strong skepticism about your literacy regarding matters of S&T, S&T Policies, and National Development is based on your flawed and naive notions about S&T and development.

First, in criticizing P-Noy’s* science policy, you betray an ignorance of the distinction between science policy and technology policy. Science policy refers to government measures on how to develop scientific research and science resources, while technology policy has to do with government decisions on the choice of technologies, the methods of acquiring technologies, technology strategies and technology roadmaps. Obviously, P-Noy’s praise of Sec. Montejo’s technology initiatives like the monorail is an attempt to enunciate an incipient national technology policy, which I hope will develop into a policy geared towards technological self-reliance and cluster-based industrialization. Just like what America, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Israel, China, and India had done successfully in order to catch up economically, the Philippines must pursue technological self-reliance and catch-up by creating the industrial clusters where we can start producing our own trains, buses, electric cars, power plants, ships, airplanes, helicopters, rockets, tanks, submarines, robots, medicines, etc. So why should scientists feel insulted when P-Noy expresses an incipient technology policy of self-reliance?

You point out, more or less correctly, that our country was next to Japan some 50 years ago and that today we have been “left behind by no less than 12 Asian countries.” But obviously, you have not studied exhaustively—as I have done—how these Asian counties were able to overtake us and even catch up with the advanced countries. For, contrary to your historically false “Science Push” development formula that “scientific research is a prerequisite to technological development,” these countries (South Korea, Taiwan, China, India, Malaysia, Israel) first pursued and attained technological catch-up and self-reliance in selected technologies before pursuing scientific catch-up in terms of scientific paper production. Even the US and Japan followed this formula. The US first attained industrial and technological power before achieving scientific power status. It started becoming a scientific powerhouse only after World War II. Same with Japan, which first built up its industrial and technological capabilities with the help of a huge engineering manpower base before attempting to catch-up in scientific research. Technological catch-up can certainly be done without basic scientific research, because all you need to do is reverse engineer an imported product and then do creative engineering redesign to improve the design of the imported product.

As pointed out by the Korean technology management scholar, Linsu Kim, in 1993: “R&D in the formal sense of the term was not important for Korea during this stage of imitating mature technologies. Industries in fact reversed the sequence of R&D&E: it started with engineering (E) for products and processes imported from abroad, and then progressively evolved into the position of undertaking a substantial development (D). But research (R) was not relevant to Korea’s industrialization through the 1970s.”  (Linsu Kim, “National System of Industrial Innovation: Dynamics of Capability Building in Korea,” in Nelson, Richard (ed), National Innovation Systems: A Comparative Analysis. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 357-383)   

If you don’t believe me, I can lend you the following books on South Korea’s industrial and technological catch-up for your enlightenment: Alice Amsden, Asia's Next Giant; South Korea and Late Industrialization (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1989) and Linsu Kim, Imitation to Innovation: The Dynamics of Korea’s Technological Learning (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1997).

This technological catch-up formula of reverse engineering followed by creative engineering redesign to achieve technological self-reliance has been historically validated again and again in Taiwan, China, Malaysia, India, Brazil, Israel, and other newly industrializing countries. The reason why we have been left behind is not because of our poor research productivity but because our political and business leaders have been brainwashed by mainstream economists into upholding the theory of comparative advantage, which says that Filipinos should just import and use advanced equipment and technologies instead of trying to produce our own advanced equipment and technologies.

Ed Padlan, therefore, is partially correct when he said that the Philippines should have more engineers running the government, for it’s a historical fact that most of those who engineered the successful catch-up of the newly industrializing countries were engineers who practiced catch-up technology management and threw away the theory of comparative advantage taught in schools of economics. I said I partially agree because what those successful countries really had plenty of and what we badly need right now are technology managers, whether they come from engineering, science, business, and other backgrounds. Technology managers are persons who are knowledgeable and competent in identifying, forecasting, selecting, acquiring, creating, developing, transferring, commercializing, and deploying technologies for the defensible and sustainable competitive advantage of a firm or a nation.

So if you want to be a “literate scientist,” as you defined it, you should study technology management and stop pretending you know anything about Science, Technology, and Innovation Policies and National Development, for you only end up displaying your scientific chauvinism, hubris, and simple-minded naiveté on these matters. And please stop quoting American basic scientists who know next to nothing about S&T and national development in developing countries.

Roger

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*Self-given monicker of Philippine President Benigno Aquino III

ABOUT DR. POSADAS:
Dr. Roger Posadas, PhD, is one of the eminent physicists of the Philippines. He started his career in the academe as a professor of physics at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, Quezon City. He served for 10 years as the first dean of UP Diliman’s College of Science and as chancellor of UP Diliman, and is currently a professor at its Technology Management Center.

florlaca

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Re: PNoy’s science policy insults scientists
« Reply #2 on: August 19, 2011, 10:15:19 AM »
“Not telling the truth makes our science crisis worse”

Rejoinder of Dr. Flor Lacanilao to Dr. Roger Posadas’s response (July 28, 2011):

Roger,

The S&T report in PNoy’s SONA has again brought disagreement between us. Na-isip ko isang dahilan kung bakit hindi tayo magka-intindihan [I thought that there’s one reason why we can’t understand each other]. So I will try the personal approach this time: talk about ourselves rather than what we say, meaning our respective credibility. My main concern has always been the future Filipino scientists and educators.

“Dr. Roger Posadas served as first dean (for 10 years) of UP Diliman’s College of Science and as former chancellor of UP Diliman.”

1. We are debating science and technology in a science forum. But you cite books by social scientists; they are published in journals covered in Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), but they have no publications covered in Science Citation Index (SCI). Examples are Linsu Kim and Alice Amsden as cited in your comments above. SCI and SSCI are the major ISI indexes covering high-impact journals.

2. Your focus is on using technology for development regardless of research. I explain how to improve research to develop capability to generate and to use technologies (“No shortcut to progress”). They indicate a difference between our training and experience. Baka pareho tayong tama—sa social science ka, sa science ako. [Maybe we are both correct, you in social science and I, in science].

3. But I can’t find any research and viewpoint papers where you are sole or first author, published in SSCI or SCI journals. This says a lot about your academic functions and the credibility of your commentaries. As a professor of physics says, “How Can We Have Science Literacy Without Literate Scientists?”  Further, Peter Mayer, director of graduate studies in physics at Princeton says, “You need to know how to do research properly before you can begin to think about commercializing discoveries” (A business blueprint: how to build a better Ph.D. Science 270:133-134, 1995).

I have enough of them—research papers & invited editorial; as sole, first, coauthor, and last author—published in 7 journal titles covered in SCI, including a research paper in Science as sole author. I led the research group that was the first to achieve the spontaneous breeding of milkfish in captivity (“Philippine science as world science: The case of milkfish reproduction”). They back my credibility and my views in giving out reliable information—for those who want to learn.

4. In your 10 years as science dean at UP Diliman, whereas the number of PhDs in the college faculty increased twofold-plus, the percentage of SCI-indexed papers produced per PhD decreased from 12 to 5 (“Celebrating the UP Centennial,” Table 1). The result is lower academic standard of teaching, graduate training, research, and outreach, not only in UP but also in other universities through graduates produced. They tell a story why we are unable to move forward (see “Problems preventing academic reforms,” and Google “Science in 100 years of UP biology”).

5. During my assignment as chief of SEAFDEC in Iloilo, the number of research and technology papers published in ISI-indexed journals increased sevenfold in 6 years. And made SEAFDEC the only world class Philippine institution in the R&D sector (“Philippine science: Time for a fresh start”).

“The environment in which decisions are made in a democracy will always be highly politicized, but it is crucial that both sides of any argument pay close attention both to what science knows and how that knowledge has been gained” (Bruce Alberts, Editor-in-Chief of Science, and for 12 years president of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, in “Policy-Making Needs Science”)

Para sa akin, in time of crisis—like our crisis of science governance in universities and government—to avoid telling the truth makes it worse. “Being honest does not mean being insulting, or nasty.”

Florlaca

Joe Carillo

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Re: PNoy’s science policy insults scientists
« Reply #3 on: August 19, 2011, 10:22:00 AM »
“Natural science isn’t the only authoritative source of truth and knowledge”

Rejoinder of Dr. Roger Posadas (July 29, 2011):

Hi, Flor!

Recall that our debate issue was whether your hypothesis, “Scientific research is a prerequisite to technological development,” is correct or wrong. I argued that there is not a single historical example of a country that can confirm your hypothesis and that on the contrary, country after country in history—Germany, USA, Japan, Russia, South Korea, Taiwan, China, Israel, Brazil, Malaysia—have invalidated your hypothesis by first accomplishing industrial and technological catch-up and development before pursuing and attaining scientific catch-up in terms of scientific publications. Then I said that if you don’t believe me, you can read the books on South Korea’s industrial and technological development by two internationally recognized scholars on Korea’s national development, Alice Amsden and Linsu Kim.

You replied, however, by raising issues about my publication record and administrative accomplishments, trumpeting your own publication record and administrative accomplishments, and even questioning the competence of Amsden and Kin because they did not publish in SCI journals.

So, thank you for demonstrating your: (1) fallacious reasoning (argumentum ad hominem and false appeal to authority), (2) unscientific thinking, and (3) scientistic mindset, as I will now explain one by one:

1. My publication record and administrative accomplishments have nothing to do with the issue we are debating. To bring these up in a debate is a fallacy called argumentum ad hominem. In fact, even if your PhD is in the breeding of bangus [milkfish], I never questioned your administrative record or your research outside bangus breeding because these are irrelevant to the debate issue. Besides, the truth of a hypothesis, whether in the natural or social sciences or management, is not determined by the number of ISI publications of the proponent or the opponent.

Neither is the credibility of a person determined by the number of his research accomplishments. Lord Kelvin was the world’s most outstanding and authoritative physicist in the 1890s when he “expertly” predicted in 1895 that “Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.”

2. I cited the works of two internationally recognized scholars on South Korea’s industrialization as evidence to refute and falsify your research-must-precede-technology-development hypothesis, but you dismissed their works as social science research, implying that natural science publications are more credible evidence of truth than publications in other journals. And so you would rather appeal to the authority of natural scientists like Bruce Alberts to bolster your hypothesis. This is called the fallacy of “False Appeal to Authority,” i.e., citing the opinion of an authority who has no expertise on the issue under discussion. But, in fact, your reference to Bruce Alberts was misplaced because his commentary was an argument for scientific thinking in policy issues related to climate change and global warming (with which I have no quarrel) and not for your “science-must- precede-technology-hypothesis.”

3. Your predilection for appealing to the opinions of foreign natural scientists on our the issue of our debate—an issue of national S&T and development strategy—and dismissing the opinions of technology management experts just because they have not published in SCI journals is a glaring example of scientism—the belief that natural science is the only credible and authoritative source of truth and knowledge in all human spheres. And your belief that only natural scientists with ISI publications are fit to run universities and S&T institutions betrays your bias for scientocracy and scientistic chauvinism. What you forget is that natural scientists with ISI publications are highly specialized scholars who may have acquired deeper and deeper knowledge of “things” within a very narrow specialty. Hence, these research scientists in fact are the least qualified people to manage institutions where they have to deal with people and not “things” like quarks and DNA. So, unless these scientists acquire training and experience in dealing with people of all kinds and in managing social processes, they should not be appointed as heads of institutions.

4. In the scientific method, a scientist poses a hypothesis as an attempt to explain a certain phenomenon and then makes observations and experimentations to test the hypothesis. If an observation confirms the hypothesis, that is one point towards its confirmation but not its proof. But if even a single observation negates or invalidates the hypothesis, then the scientist must discard or revise the hypothesis. In your case, however, your hypothesis of “scientific research is a prerequisite to technological development” cannot be supported by a single country in history, whereas its reverse (technological catch-up and development is a prerequisite for scientific catch-up and development) has been confirmed by the cases of Germany, USA, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, China, Israel, Brazil, India, Finland, and others. Nevertheless, you pigheadedly insist on the truth of your hypothesis despite the verdict of history. So the only conclusion is that you are an unscientific person who is no better than an astrologer or mythologist trying to peddle stories that have been called “unfalsifiable” by Karl Popper.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favor of your campaign to get our researchers to do research properly and to publish them in ISI journals. But let us not make ISI publications the prerequisite for technological and economic development. We must get rich first before can create a world-class environment for scientific productivity. And to get rich, we must first develop our technological capabilities and our industrial competitiveness. And stop judging the worth or qualifications of people on the basis of their number or lack of ISI publications. Please judge them on the basis of their values and character as well as their competence and capabilities.

Roger
« Last Edit: August 19, 2011, 10:27:47 AM by Joe Carillo »

florlaca

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Re: PNoy’s science policy insults scientists
« Reply #4 on: August 19, 2011, 10:25:22 AM »
Dr. Lacanilao rests his case on this debate

Rejoinder of Dr. Flor Lacanilao to Dr. Posadas's reply (July 30, 2011):

Hindi na ako sasagot [I won’t reply anymore], can’t see any sense to do so.

Florlaca

BenVallejo

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Re: PNoy’s science policy insults scientists
« Reply #5 on: August 21, 2011, 01:47:01 AM »
Re: Roger Posadas’s comments on “PNoy science policy insults scientists”

While Dr. Posadas may be right, there are other technologies that the Philippines can prioritize in order to catch up. But I don’t think a monorail is it.

Also I do not subscribe to the thesis that Japan became technologically advanced first before becoming a scientific powerhouse. This thesis is too Western. Japan already had a literate population, its own indigenous science and technology and medical science prior to Commodore Perry’s port call and the Meiji restoration. Japan was already advanced in Japanese science (partly contributed by “Dutch Knowledge” in Nagasaki when the country was closed), thus it is was quite easy for Japan to “catch up” with the West! Historical accounts by the Protestant Europeans who were allowed to trade with the Closed Country all say that the Japanese were not that interested with technology as with the science behind it.

One evidence of Japan’s prior preparation in science and technology is that world-class international publications were accepted in the best science journal in Asia during the first decade of the 20th century. Japanese results in basic medical sciences and medical technology were published in the Philippine Journal of Science (PJS) starting 1908! Many of the findings, most especially in cancer research and tropical medicine, were cited by the West.

The American colonial establishment, in a sense, tried to implement a Japanese kind of science and technology prioritization. This was further supported by Quezon’s Commonwealth. Indigenous technologies coupled with ensuring that these were vetted by scientific research as published in PJS gave the journal good credibility. In World War II, this preparation allowed Filipino scientists to alleviate the hardships of the Japanese occupation especially in medicine and food technology. After WWII, however, the Philippines did not follow through and took a less focused approach by developing local technologies without developing their basic science capabilities and ramping up scientific publication. The quality of PJS suffered as a result.

Japan had the science when they started developing the technologies. The model proposed by Dr. Posadas is exactly the other way around. We have the technology and then find out the science behind it. And if we have done so, then what? Dr. Posadas’ model is not the one that is now powering translational science research in Korea, Singapore, and Thailand and is increasingly being adopted by the ASEAN countries. Translational research is the one that attracts the investors sooner and not the S&T model Dr. Posadas promotes. Why? It is because our economy is not as competitive now than—let me say the mantra—“When the Philippines was second to Japan in Asia.” Whatever technologies we develop should meet an unmet need that has wide  global marketing potential, and this should be our priority. We are just too late in the LED TV market but we can try to do that if we can attract Samsung to transfer some of their techie knowhow here. But I doubt if a Pinoy LED TV will be as competitive as the made-in- China LED TVs that CDR king sells! Thus, if DOST comes up with a technological product like this, will the investors form a beeline to develop it? I doubt it. It will end up like any of the nice ideas that live and die in SMEx inventors’ fairs!

Let me suggest a science and technology sector that DOST should put its money in. These include technologies in helping people cope up with climate and environmental changes. First, environmental sensors technology. The country has good expertise in this; it is just a matter of prioritizing it. There is money to be made here and it should generate serious climate-change research in the country. Any search on the Internet would show that the technology here is relatively undeveloped but any knowledgeable Pinoy knows that country has the knowhow. We need not copy Japanese/Korean technology here but develop that knowhow. If you cross over the Ateneo campus, in fact, some of the undergrad students are already into it—but for a different application. The science is sound but the technology isn’t. Does DOST know this?

What we need are serious prioritization of science and technology development.

Ben

ABOUT DR. VALLEJO:
Dr. Benjamin M. Vallejo, Jr., is a faculty member of the College of Science and affiliate faculty in geography of the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City. He has a PhD in Marine Biology from the James Cook University in Australia, and his fields of interest are pure and applied biogeography, coral reef malacology, and aquarium science.

Eduardo (Jay) Olaguer

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Re: PNoy’s science policy insults scientists
« Reply #6 on: September 25, 2011, 12:26:07 PM »
Hi, Folks

I am new to this forum, which deals with some interesting issues. I belong to the Filipino diaspora and want to add my two centavos' worth to the topic at hand. I agree that environmental monitoring is a key component of S&T development, and to this I would add environmental modeling. This is for two reasons: 1) We need to develop a green manufacturing capability that promotes sustainability locally; and 2) We need to learn how to manufacture products that meet increasingly stringent international environmental standards and promote sustainability globally.

I was just discussing an idea with Fr. Jett Villarin, my former Ateneo high school classmate, about building an environmental monitoring and modeling capability on a neighborhood scale that can be used in eco-industrial parks in the Philippines, including the marriage of external monitoring with industrial process control and simulation. As the Director of Air Quality Research at the Houston Advanced Research Center, I am involved in patenting a new Emission Monitoring and Attribution System that can measure industrial emissions from outside facility fence lines using a combination of DOAS (imaging and multi-axis) remote sensing, real-time in situ monitoring, and inverse modeling. I am likewise developing a new 3D neighborhood air quality model with its own chemical mechanism as well as standard transport algorithms that can be run in both forward and adjoint (inverse) mode. I have also just now published a paper in Atmospheric Environment on a new method for performing air quality Computer Aided Tomography based on long path DOAS measurements.

I would love to hook up with other Filipino scientists to promote this idea.