Cutting Corners 1: Research and Science in the Philippines (DEVC 122 Paper No.1)

Prince’s author Niccolo Machiavelli said that ends justify the means. But, Henry Bauer of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, on the other hand,  pointed out that the “ends can never justify means, because it’s the means you use that determine the ends that you’ll get.”

Flor Lacanilao’s Public Understanding of Science could be found in the same shoe with Bauer regarding his idea of science. Both of them say that science alone could never help a country; only science properly communicated in the public.

I always view science as the one of the ‘dominant’ discipline. Aside from the fact that it’s one of the considered bases of truth, I am also fascinated by the complexities of it. But after reading the article written by Professor Lacanilao, I cannot say more but to agree.

He acknowledged the role of science, especially in promoting development in the country. And surely, there would be a lot of consequences if there are misconducts in scientific research. Scientific information is very important not just as discovery, but as foundation in policy-making, innovative programs, generating technologies, and practical living. In policy-making and innovative programs, it could serve as the framework where legislators could pattern their laws, for the benefit of the public. They could also formulate “counter-attacks” if ever there are discoveries that would cause mayhem. Professor Lacanilao also said science issues technology, for they are interrelated. And lay people could apply some scientific information that is of use in their practical living. As stated, science really plays an important part of of the development process. And as future development communication practitioner, I think that it is very significant to appreciate science as such.

Prof. Lacanilao discussed a lot of points regarding the public understanding of science. But what alarmed me the most is how he emphasized the need to upgrade the standard of our research in the country. He actually labeled it as the “culprit” of the problems in implementing and even just in formulating science-related policies, technologies, etc. He said that RESEARCH is related to SCIENCE, and science to TECHNOLOGY, and later to DEVELOPMENT. If we would trace the root, the basic component is research. That’s why there is really the need for us to take research seriously.

He said that there is the need for us to know the Research and Development (R&D) process first. Then, keeping our fingers crossed, we could hope that this would trigger everyone to appreciate scientific research. He also discussed the status of R&D in the Philippines. Coming from the article, he said:

“Many of our PhDs in science who got their degrees abroad did not publish their theses, knowing their home institutions would recognize the degrees even without their publication. Whereas new PhDs without publication experience in international journals do not get faculty positions or research grants in developed countries, in the Philippines they are given automatic promotions. They include those in the graduate faculty, industry, and science administration.”

I think that this tradition has to stop. This so-called cause-and-effect scenario must be put to end, if we really want to have quality scientific information. We suffer from researches with doubtful credibility since those are not peer-reviewed internationally. In real life, some faculty would have a research not as a contribution to the scientific community, but as compliance to a certain course, or for vested interests such as grants, and higher positions in the academe and government agencies.  Just imagine, if a policy-maker uses a certain research that is not that tested and is not that reliable, that would cause chaos in policy-making, and harm, of course, to the public.

Just like what I’ve said a while ago, this is somewhat a “tradition” in the Philippines- a norm that is very common and accepted. That’s why I really like the suggestions of Prof. Lacanilao. He just shared the materials that we need for us to have a good research. And he emphasized on keeping our eyes on the goal of the research — be published in ISI (Institute for Scientific Information) and in SCI (Science Citation Index). In short, we must at least aim to produce a research that is internationally-acclaimed. If that’s the case, then there is a great possibility that this knowledge would be beneficial in a country.

I hope that people in the academe, researchers, and some other professionals would have the vision about this. We are always striving for development. Then why ignore these matters? The end justifies the means. But in this case, I think it’s not and would never will. If we really mean business with science, mean business with development, then strive for a quality produce–  a quality research for a quality country.

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