Philippine science: Time for a fresh start

by Flor Lacanilao

Fifty years after putting up an S&T agency (Department of Science and Technology) and 30 years after a national science academy (NAST), the Philippines has yet to find a scientific system that is anything close to meeting its twenty-first century needs.

The academy’s measurable scientific output is in decline, and yet many (perhaps most) of its members are stubbornly opposing all proposals for reform, whether they emanate from the academy itself or from outside.

Getting scientific papers published in international journals, for example, is essential for researchers from Boston to Beijing. But at most government science agencies and organizations they don’t care about publication lists and impact factors, and many scientists regard as impertinent the idea that research careers should depend on papers in ‘foreign’ journals. The very notion of international peer review is still not accepted by the old guard.

All this must change. The academy needs to make sure that the limited funds are allocated, in a competitive and transparent way, to the best groups and projects in each field. This is even more important that public research spending is increasing. And with the absence of stringent quality-management, the extra money is likely to dissolve in nepotism and ill-reviewed projects.

A thorough evaluation of the entire science enterprise, by respected scientists from here (many of them are listed in the table) and abroad, would be the best way to commence modernization. Further neglect of reform will cement only the academy’s decline into mediocrity or obsolescence, and foster yet more emigration of young talent.

Kung maganda ang mga linya sa taas, hindi yan sa akin. Dahil hirap ako sa English, I barrowed those lines from an editorial in Nature (4 Oct 2007, “Time for a fresh start” referring to science in Russia today,(, which fits that of ours.

For example, the publication data of 58 Filipino biologists show a clear picture of the Academy’s serious problem – only a few made the list (see table). Of the 27 Academicians and National Scientists in biology, only 8 have each three or more publications in peer-reviewed international journals as sole or lead author. Four of the 16 Academicians and three of the 11 National Scientists have each no such publication (in journals covered in Science Citation Index).

Here are more excerpts from another article in Nature (15 July 2004, “The scientific impact of nations”) relevant to the serious publication problem in the Philippines.

“The ability to judge a nation’s scientific standing is vital for the governments, businesses and trusts that must decide scientific priorities and funding …. To measure the quantity and quality of science in different nations, I have analyzed the numbers of published papers and reviews, and their citations. All data were provided by Thomson ISI, previously known as the Institute for Scientific Information, which indexes more than 8,000 journals in 36 languages, representing most significant material in science and engineering.”

“The numbers of citations per paper is a useful measure of the impact of a nation’s output. The data can be re-based, to avoid distortions due to different citation rates in different disciplines.”

“A strong science base need not lead directly to wealth generation. However, strength in science has additional benefits for individual nations, and for the world as a whole. 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.”

See full text at or I can email a copy.

Flor Lacanilao
Retired professor of marine science
University of the Philippines, Quezon City
florlaca @ gmail . com


Filipino biologists and the number of their publications in best cited journalsa
Brown = UPD/MSI
Green = Academician
Blue = Nat’l Scientist
No. of journal titles No. ofpublications Sole or lead authorship
JH Primavera 23 38b 21c
AC Alcala 23 50 15
ED Gomez 15 39d 16e
RM Coloso 16 35 12
HT Yap 9 36 16
RV Azanza 12 29 13
BS Vergara 18 37d 6e
OM Millamena 6 26 18
T Bagarinao 10 17 13
AQ Hurtado 4 24 19
LMB Garcia         UPD/IB 5 20 17
JD Tan-Fermin 7 20 15
FGx Ayson 6 18 14
IG Borlongan 7 19 11
CR Lavilia-Pitogo 12 22 5
CL Marte 5 20 11
GD Lio-Po 6 15 10
PQ  Cabauatan
8 16 8
EGT de Jesus (-Ayson) 6 22 8
WG Gallardo 7 9  9
AK Raymundo 7  8 8
MD Fortes 10  31 4
JD Toledo 6 14 8
GC Trono 6 16  7
M Cuvin-Aralar 5 10 8
MR Catacutan 4 15 9
AC Emata 5 13 8
EM Avila                    UPV 7 10 6
MA Juinio-Menez 8 12 5
MCL Baticados 4 11 9
CB Santiago 3 15 10
aThese are covered in Science Citation Index, covering over 3,700 journals. Data were obtained through Google Scholar in August-September 2008. (F Lacanilao, unpublished)bTwo papers in Science and one in Nature.

cOne paper in Science as sole author.

dOne paper in Science.

eOne paper in Science or Nature as lead author.

Academician, member of the National Academy of Science and Technology; SEAFDEC, Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center; UPD, University of the Philippines Diliman; MSI, Marine Science Institute; UPV, University of the Philippines Visayas; IRRI Int. Rice Research Inst; UPLB, University of the Philippines at Los Banos.


Filipino biologists and the number of their publications, cont’d

Brown = UPD / MSI
Green = Academician
Blue = Nat’l Sci
No. of journal titles No. ofpublications Sole or lead authorship
SL Eduardo 3 11 10
PM Aliño 8 19 4
F Lacanilao 7 8 5c
ET Quinitio 6 11 5
AO Lluisma 4 11 7
CA Florencio       UPD/HE 6 6d 5
EM Leańo 8 14 3
ER Cruz-Lacierda 4 10 6
AC Fermin 3 11 7
VR Alava 3 7 7
NS Sumagaysay 3 7 7
JV Juario        UPV 6 16 4
GF Quinitio    UPV 6 8 4
JL Padilla       IRRI 7 8 3
PI Padilla       UPV 5 7 4
FD Parado-Estepa 5 7 4
NG Guanzon Jr 4 9 4
FM Fronda 3 6 5
MRR Romana-Eguia 4 4 4
MN Duray 5 14 3
ET Ganzon-Fortes 3 9 4
RG Davide 4 4 3
SS Mingao-Licuanan 4 4 3
ZU Basiao              UPD/IB 3 7 3
AE Serrano            UPV 3 7 3
DS Rabor               UPLB 3 6 3
MR de la Peña 3 3 3
cOne paper in Science as sole author.dOne paper in Science.

HE, College of Home Economics

Of the 27 Academicians and National Scientists in biology, only eight have each 3 or more publications in peer-reviewed international journals as sole or lead author. Four of the 16 Academicians and three of the 11 National Scientists have each 0 such publication. One National Scientist had 18, as sole or lead author, but all published in the same journal.

Three of the five listed from UPV and the two from IB were former SEAFDEC researchers.