‘Baliw na Baliw’ Resonates with DOST-led Science Community

By EDD K. USMAN, Twitter: @edd1819, Instagram: @bluestar0910, Facebook: SDN — Science and Digital News

(SDN) — MIGHT be a stretch to say the “baliw na baliw kayo sa (you are really crazy about) research” outburst of a senator resonated with the Philippines’ science community.

Some of them, at least.

After all, it sounded like a hit on research in general although it was addressed to the Department of Agriculture (DA) for its Php150 million allocation for research from its proposed Php120 billion budget for 2020.

But surprised, or not, that’s what came out from the local science community led by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

This is not a formal survey on the sentiments of researchers vis-a-vis Senator Cynthia Villar’s stinging rebuke of the DA, which she slammed as being crazy about research on corn during hearing for DA’s budget proposal.

SDN — Science and Digital News reached out to Science Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña; National Research Council of the Philippines (DOST-NRCP) President Dr. Ramon Razal; Administrator Vicente Malano of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (DOST-PAGASA); Dr. Eusebio Dizon, curator of the National Museum of the Philippines (NMP); Balik-Scientist Dr. Custer Deocaris; University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD) Prof. Dr. Carlos Primo David; and Herbanext Laboratories President Dr. Philip Cruz.

Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña:

“I believe that in what she said she meant: striking a balance — a balance between the man hours and other resources used in rendering actual government service to help farmers, fishermen and crop & livestock producers versus man hours and other resources used to generate new knowledge and new information.

“The bottom line is how we in government can help the sector in the short term (urgent needs) and in the long term (strategic moves which are anticipatory and and innovative).

“It is comparable to my call to researchers as head of DOST. ‘Let us improve first the application, utilization or commercialization of the technologies derived from completed research using public money before working again on new researches which get published but do not improve the situation of the sectors for which the research is supposed to be intended for.’ Balance is a good guide –whether we are talking of basic and applied research or if we are talking of technical services or research. Our tagline DOST should always be a good reminder: Is it SCIENCE for the PEOPLE? Is it RESEARCH to benefit our PEOPLE?”

Baliw na baliw, DOST, science community, researchers, resonates
DOST Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña during one of many S&T conferences science, technology, and innovation (STI). (Photo: Science and Digital News)

Dr. Ramon Razal:

“I really don’t know what to make of it, (because) Senator Villar is author of a recent bill that proposes to create the ‘Bamboo Industry Research & Development Council’. Unless she has forgotten. Maybe people are reacting to how she said it. I pray she didn’t mean to put down research or she really has no idea how much it costs to do research. In a way, it’s a call to researchers to make the results of their research better known to all — senators, farmers, the ordinary guy on the street, and the young generation, etc.”

Dr. Eusebio Dizon

“Without the benefit new information from research we could’nt have progressed.”

Director Vicente Malanum:

“My understanding is that there are many research outputs that are not yet implemented. What we have to do is implement them already; don’t just focus on doing research.”

Dr. Carlos Primo David:

“Research is a form of investment and has corresponding benefits, more often than not longer lasting than pure dole out projects. I’ve seen Senator Villar in many DOST events supporting the work being done by the department. Maybe it was just poorly stated by the senator but I think what she really meant was to make sure researchers are clear in their research impact pathway — how studies can be translated to benefit society.”

Dr. Custer Deocaris:

“Research generates knowledge and a deeper understanding of the world. It is the foundation of innovation and a society that aspires to uplift itself. The process itself is empowering as it creates young people who are critical thinkers, honest and more capable of envisioning a better tomorrow. The lack of appreciation of research by the senator may be a  short-coming of scientists who are too engrossed in the process and in the rewards and have forgotten that an essential aspect of research is to communicate its greater value to the public.”

Dr. Philip Cruz:

“There is actually an important point that Senator Villar raised, which is that it is not good to be spending so much on research if industry (including the small farmers) is not able to utilize the output to solve the current problems. The reality is that we are being left behind in technology by our neighbors so we need to invest in research.

“But the research we have to invest on more is applied research and not basic research. Such applied research has to prioritize what is really needed by industry/country, and not according the the whims or desires of researchers. By investing on applied research tailored to the needs of Filipinos, end users will learn to appreciate the value of research and will imbibe the culture of innovation — constantly improving productivity and profitability through technology.

“As it is right now, the kind of research (basic) that many of our researchers from the academe and government would like to do is a bit too advance to what we can absorb. So in the end, it is not the common Filipino that benefit most from these researches because we simply are not ready to use it. At this point, we need relatively low levels of technology, which we mostly already have, but DA and the rest of the S&T community is not effective at disseminating.

 “Some of these ‘low level technologies’ that can be very helpful to industry are just sitting in libraries of government research centers and universities waiting to become obsolete. So what we need DA to do is to properly deploy their existing technologies or improve on it, not to do more basic research because simply put, wala silang K to do basic research with so little impact they have made in S&T considering the significant investments they have made in the past.

“So kaya siguro ang naisip ni Senator Villar is to let DA invest more on inputs/equipment for the farmers kasi ito ang may direct impact at pinakamabilis na results in these trying times. Of course this strategy is not right either nor sustainable. We should still do basic research as it is the one that can be a game changer in technology, but the time is not now; with our limited resources (money, skilled scientists) focus should be applied research.”

He suggested 10 strategies:

  • 1. Identify the key problems of agriculture and focus R&D on this.
  • 2. Have a clear and strategic master plan and stick to it (DAs master plan keeps on changing with every new government, no continuity).
  • 3. Focus on applied research (70%) that farmers can immediately and realistically adopt.
  • 4. Adopt a more effective strategy for deploying completed technologies, especially those based in universities where IP protection is preventing dissemination.
  • 5. Focus on the agriculture problems that are easier to solve so impact can immediately be felt.
  • 6. Limit basic research (30%) on what is immediately important, and base this on a strategic development plan.
  • 7. Get private sector to engage in technology development in partnership with academe and government to properly guide researches on real world problems (we have one of the lowest industry-academe partnership in the region).
  • 8. Let us not waste our resources (money, time, and researchers) on doing research on something that we can readily and cheaply import; we should focus on problems that are unique to the Philippines.
  • 9. Screen and evaluate research grants based on direct impact to industry (which DOST is already starting to do).
  • 10. Get DOST involved in screening DA research activities (to encourage synergism and avoid duplication or research). (SDN)

Image of corn courtesy of mute_gemini on Pixabay.

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