Thursday, September 25, 2008

Guest: Dr. Flor Lacanilao

Nonscientists running Philippine science academy

There is not a single scientist or social scientist in the 7-member Executive Council of the country's National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST). Not one. The EC is composed of the organization's president, vice-president, secretary, and four members. No one of them has enough properly published work in science or social sciences. The same is true of past officials. No wonder the state of science in the country is so bad and no less than 12 Asian countries have in the last 50 years have left us behind. The Department of Science and technology is 50 years old.

This finally explains what I have been trying to point out in my papers the past years (most of them the media would not print). That NAST is the basic cause of the poor state of science in the country, but I did not have easy access to enough publication data until recently (Thanks to the recent developments of tools for computer search). This email reviews some of my papers on RP science and reports the publication performance of the NAST officials.

The stories have been published in The Philippine Star and the Philippine Daily Inquirer (1), posted in websites (2), and sent by email (3). After four articles in The Philippine Star, the column editor informed me that many of our respected scientists found my articles adversarial and counter-productive (my fifth paper was not printed), which I argued can come only from those who do not know their science (4). Their comments partly reinforced my position about those running our science agencies and organizations.

The papers discuss how science should be done, how science leads to national progress, how the Filipino scientific community has failed in its social responsibility, and explain the main causes of the stunted growth of RP science. A major culprit is the national science academy, the NAST, but the crucial proof to support it was lacking. Still its shortcomings on the job have been evident. Unlike science academies in other countries, NAST failed to promote excellence within the scientific community, encourage informed public debate on science-related issues (e.g., biofuels, climate change, and population control), and provide policy-makers with sound advice for rational decision-making on these issues (5).

The conclusion above came after a series of hard and easy access to publication data. In my UP Centennial paper, I started showing why NAST has not been able to do its job (6). The paper reports that most of the members and all officials of NAST did not have enough scientific publications in 1981-1997 to be in a science academy. Recently, developments in computer search allowed easy access to someone's publications, especially in international journals. Hence, two weeks ago, I showed that only 3 of 8 new NAST members are scientists or published in international journals (7); the year before, 2 of 4 members elected are nonscientists. And last week, I presented data showing that only 8 of NAST's 27 Academicians and National Scientists in biology made it in a partial list of 50 leading Filipino biologists (8). The list is dominated by those from SEAFDEC in Iloilo and UP Marine Science Institute, who are non-NAST members.

"The general administration and direction of the affairs of the Academy are vested in seven members appointed by the President of the Philippines for a three-year term. They comprise the NAST Executive Council. The officers of the Academy who are elected by the general membership from the members of the Executive Council consisting of the President, the Vice President, and the Secretary. They are referred to as the Executive Bureau. The Executive Council Meeting is held every second Thursday of the month. In between meetings, the Bureau meets to consider urgent matters which will be subsequently confirmed by the Executive Council."

The 2005-2008 members of the NAST Executive Council (EC) are the following:

Academician Emil Q. Javier, as President
Academician Ledivina V. CariƱo as Vice President
Academician Evelyn Mae Tecson-Mendoza Secretary
National Scientist Dolores A. Ramirez, Academicians Mercedes B. Concepcion, Ceferino L. Follosco, Quintin L. Kintanar as members.

Their publications were obtain through Google Scholar and only those covered in Science Citation Index (SCI) or Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI) are used to prove their capability, or lack of it, in science or social sciences.

Only two of the seven EC members have 7-15 publications, and the rest have each 0-2; all the seven are each sole or lead author of only 0-2 publications.

If one would look at such publication records of past officials of NAST, largely the same results would be obtained. The same situation is true for past and present officials of the DOST (department of science and technology).

Clearly, such capability of the officials of our national science academy and S&T department cannot be expected to debate on scientific issues, promote science literacy, and provide sound policy advice. These are evident in what has become of the NAST and science in the country. How then can we fight poverty and disease or move the country forward?

Membership in the US National Academy of Sciences is a "widely recognized sign of excellence in scientific research" and where "each member should serve as a role model for defining excellence in science for the next generation of scientists in his or her field" (9).

Publication data of everybody are now available in the internet by computer search for the public use. They are important objective indicators for assessing publication performance of those doing science-related functions -- training graduate students, writing books, evaluating research proposal and output (e.g., for giving grants and awards), evaluating medicinal products, science administration, science policy making, etc. The data can tell how the job is done. On a national scale, this is seen in a country's state of development or underdevelopment.

Examine, for example, a Philippine book on Filipino great scientists or medicinal plants, but first check the publications or citations of the author. And you will find the same quality and integrity in the content.
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The SCI covers over 3,750 journals and the SSCI, over 2,300. The SCI-indexed journals are the elite or best cited journals indexed by ISI (Institute for Scientific Information). ISI covers more than 8,000 journals, which are used in evaluating research or S&T performance that are published in the leading journals Nature and Science (e.g., 10).

In top universities like Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, and Cambridge, scientists use peer review to rate research performance. And it has almost entirely been confirmed by the objective indicators -- publications and citations -- using Science Citation Index. Similar confirmation has also been shown for Nobel laureates in science.

Those who have run our national agencies and organizations in science in the last 50 years have been using peer review or personal judgment for such evaluation. But this has always been refuted by the same SCI-indexed indicators, because they are nonscientists (6, 7, 8, and this paper). SCI-indexed publications are the minimum requirement to qualify for any science-related work.

Perhaps institutions aiming for excellence should consider shifting to SCI (publications and citations) in evaluating performance in science, engineering, and math; and for social and behavioral sciences, SSCI (see references in 6). They can never go wrong. No journals from the Philippines have yet met the SCI's standards for coverage (I have seen four in SCI Expanded, which covers nearly twice as many journals). The Philippine Political Science Journal is covered in SSCI.

Using SCI as standard for evaluation will enable us to develop the needed capability for technology generation, and also be able to use effectively technologies from developed countries (1, No shortcut to progress). Then we can stop talking about S&T and start making and using them for national progress (11). And in university rankings, UP can aim to make it in the first 100 in the Asia Pacific and in the world's top 500 (12).

Huwag magdunong-dunongan, para matuto.

Hindi ko pa rin maisip kung bakit media would not print stories like this, which tells the truth about culprits who failed to attend to the basic CAUSES (science and technology) of our national problems (e.g., poverty); but columnists tell all kinds of bad words against government leaders whose fault is failure to cure the SYMPTOMS only (e.g., poverty) (see 1, Only science can solve poverty). Here are the bases of my inquiry: (a) One is factual; the other, often based on allegations, (b) ang una ang may sala ng pangalawa, and (c) sabi ng major daily, "Fearless Views." Sabi naman ng isa, "TRUTH SHALL PREVAIL." Ano ba talaga ang ibig sabihin ng mga ito?

Tama na ang nasabi ko about our problems in science (salamat sa tulak pa ng marami). Paulit-ulit, nakakamanhid, adversarial, counter-productive, sabi ng iba. From their comments, I can judge their value to RP science.

Let me close this (my last) by quoting Raul Suarez (13). Dr Suarez is a Fil-Canadian who is a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and an editor of the Journal of Experimental Biology, Cambridge, UK.

"We learned from Rizal's life that it should not be considered a bad thing to write of darkness, foul air, and dirty water. Filipinos shot the messenger in 1896 and his message was censored for decades afterwards by the Church and banned in some of the best universities in the country.

"It is in this light that I view negative reactions to objective analyses of the state of Philippine science. How sadly counter-productive! How contrary such reactions are to the interests of the Filipino people! But for every Filipino in Rizal's firing squad in 1896, there were thousands of others who joined the revolution. Today, for every person who does not want to read or hear of dysfunction in Philippine science, there are many more who realize that it is time for change."

To our young students of science, I hope this review of the state of science in the Philippines will interest you to improve it as you pursue your career and help the country to move forward.

To my former grad students, assistants, and colleagues at UP Institute of biology, UP Visayas, UP Marine Science Institute, and SEAFDEC,
huwag kayong bibigay.

Sige,

Flor Lacanilao
25 Sept 2008


References

1. R&D process
http://www.philippinestoday.net/index.php?module=article&view=236 (Part 1)
http://www.philippinestoday.net/index.php?module=article&view=237 (Part 2)
Research on medicinal plants
http://www.bahaykuboresearch.net/index.php?module=article&view=47
Training graduate students
http://www.bahaykuboresearch.net/index.php?module=article&view=48
Problems with media and scientists
http://www.philippinestoday.net/index.php?module=article&view=248

A Jolt from the true state of science in the Philippines
http://globalnation.inquirer.net/mindfeeds/mindfeeds/view_article.php?article_id=65347

Only science can solve poverty
http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropinion/columns/view_article.php?article_id=72442

No shortcut to progress
http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropinion/letterstotheeditor/view_article.php?article_id=119740

True cause of poor S&T
http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropinion/letterstotheeditor/view_article.php?article_id=79417

Key to real growth no longer a secret
http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropinion/letterstotheeditor/view_article.php?article_id=113398

2. Measuring research performance
http://www.philippinestoday.net/index.php?module=article&view=273
Research as principal criterion of faculty recruitment
http://www.philippinestoday.net/index.php?module=article&view=388
Essentials of development
http://www.ovcrd.upd.edu.ph/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=462&Itemid=81

3. Straight talk to Filipino scientists
New science journals not the answer
National museum collections
What more can scientists do?
UP as a research university

4. RP scientists to blame for poor science
http://www.philippinestoday.net/index.php?module=article&view=274
http://www.bahaykuboresearch.net/index.php?module=article&view=50

5. Africa's academies. Nature, 6 December 2007)
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v450/n7171/full/450762a.html

6 Celebrating the UP Centennial
http://www.philippinestoday.net/index.php?module=article&view=479
http://www.bahaykuboresearch.net/index.php?module=article&view=52

7. Only 3 of 8 new Academicians are scientists
http://www.philippinestoday.net/index.php?module=article&view=1179

8. RP science: Time for a new start
www.seafdec.org.ph/news_rp_science_fresh_start.htm

9. Election to the National Academy of Sciences, PNAS 102: 7405-7406, 2005
http://www.pnas.org/content/102/21/7405.full.pdf+html

10. The scientific impact of nations, Nature, 15 July 2004.
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v430/n6997/full/430311a.html

India's R&D: Reaching for the top, Science, 4 March 2005
http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/307/5714/1415

Free journal-ranking tool enters citation market, Nature, 2 January 2008
http://www.nature.com/news/2008/080102/full/451006a.html

11. S&T for Sustainable Well-Being, Science, 25 January 2008:
http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/reprint/319/5862/424.pdf

12. Academic Ranking of World Universities 2007
http://ed.sjtu.edu.cn/rank/2007/ranking2007.htm

13. International Science: Function, Dysfunction and Flowers in a Grassy Field, Philippine Star, 5 and 12 April 2007
http://philstar.com/archives.php?aid=310356&type=1 (Part 1)
http://philstar.com/archives.php?aid=311191&type=1 (Part 2)

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