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Opinion

‘STAR Science’ is back!

STAR SCIENCE - Gisela P. Padilla-Concepcion, Ph.D - The Philippine Star

Can The Philippine STAR offer readers more features on lifestyle, culture, education, innovation and other areas of human interest than it already does? An infrequently publicized sector of Philippine society thinks so – the Filipino scientists. The Philippine STAR, once again trailblazing and responding to our needs during these tumultuous times, re-introduces STAR Science, a column that ran in The STAR every Thursday from 2004 to 2014 on a variety of science and technology (S&T) topics written by Filipino scientists and science educators.

This S&T column is intended for wide readership, for all literate, educated Filipinos who are open to growing their scientific knowledge and understanding of Humans and the rest of Nature – science and non-science professionals, government officials and civic leaders, businessmen and entrepreneurs, teachers and students, WFH (work-from-home) persons including nurturing mothers and housewives and the rest of Philippine society. STAR Science would contribute to improving the science literacy of the general public and developing a science culture in the country. We hope to increase awareness of the potential impact of S&T on our daily lives and on the health and economy of our nation.

STAR Science will present a balance or complement to the other regular features in The STAR, hoping to stimulate questions among readers, especially our youth, on socially relevant and important S&T topics. We would provide our best and brightest youth some scientific innovation challenges that could spark in them an interest to pursue a scientific career, as an alternative to other attractive occupations and pursuits such as business, banking and finance, trading, importation and retail, real estate development, law and politics.

News or feature articles on science in daily newspapers are oftentimes mainly reprinted from foreign publications. Here we will feature the work of Filipino scientists and relate them to scientific work being pursued abroad that readers hear about. We will showcase some of our Filipino scientists who are doing world-class science in the Philippines and abroad. Sometimes, social media and television inadvertently disseminate false, inaccurate or unverified scientific information. Our Filipino scientists with different areas of expertise could be called upon to verify or clarify scientific facts and correct scientific misinformation.

With our country’s seemingly insurmountable socio-economic, educational and environmental problems, exacerbated by the COVID pandemic, we believe there is a need to project S&T publicly as a potentially significant contributor to increased local productivity and economic growth, to the improvement of health and living conditions of Filipinos, to the amelioration of our environment and the protection, conservation and sustainable use of our natural resources. We hope to influence public opinion and lobby government to increase funding support for scientists and S&T R&D (research and development) in the country to the UNESCO standard of GERD (Gross Expenditure for R&D) equal to 1 percent of GDP.

We must impress upon the public the urgent need to improve the state of Philippine science education and S&T research and development, which are sorely lagging behind many of our Southeast Asian neighbors. If government still cannot provide sufficient support for S&T, then perhaps there is a need at this point to present to local entrepreneurs and private companies the potential for commercialization of some of the S&T researches being pursued by our scientists. STAR Science will serve this purpose and could be an easy and effective means for local scientists to publicize and obtain more support for their work. Scientists in state-funded academic centers will not be perceived as wasting government funds by engaging in useless, irrelevant research or living in intellectual ivory towers.

Most importantly, we would like to encourage more of our Filipino youth to build careers in science and to contribute to finding constructive and innovative S&T solutions to many of our country’s socio-economic problems. This would be in line with the current direction taken by progressive and prosperous countries, which is to build and strengthen their knowledge-based economies. Big Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence Technology for Complex Systems, Additive Manufacturing & 3D-Printing Technology, Digital Transformation Information-Communication Technology, Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Genomics and OMICS Technologies are important revolutionary technologies of the present and the future, which will fuel economies toward accelerated productivity, growth and development. We need many more experts in these technology areas to build our nation.

Development of local innovative products in areas where we may have a competitive advantage would boost local commerce, create new jobs and provide opportunities for import substitution. For those of our society, especially the youth, who love nature and the outdoors, proper scientific orientation and training in the conservation of our rich terrestrial and marine biodiversity and its protection from the destructive effects of environmental pollution will translate to a much better quality of life for us and for succeeding generations.

STAR Science will have fellow scientists from UP and other universities, colleagues at the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST), National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP) and the Philippine-American Academy of Science & Engineering (PAASE) contribute articles which would span the broad range of the social, biological, chemical, physical, computational and engineering sciences.

Readers, especially our youth, science students and teachers are encouraged to send queries and comments on the articles.

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Gisela P. Padilla-Concepcion, who co-hosts STAR Science, is a Professor Emeritus of the University of the Philippines Diliman. She is an Academician of the National Academy of Science and Technology and a Fellow of The World Academy of Sciences. E-mail: [email protected]

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