The heartbeat of science

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Padolina
William G. Padolina, president of the National Academy of Science and Technology, Philippines

The National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST), Philippines, was created in 1976 to recognise outstanding achievements in science and technology and to serve as a reservoir of competent scientific and technological manpower for the country. Inside Investor met NAST’s president William G. Padolina.

Q: Can you give a brief overview of NAST?

A: NAST was organised in 1976 by presidential decree by former president Ferdinand Marcos. It was intended to be an advisor and recognition body to the government on issues of science and technology. The academy is composed of elected members, and there is a certain amount of votes a new member must receive from existing members. Right now, we have 63 members, 13 of whom are National Scientists. This is an honour awarded by the President of the Philippines for outstanding achievements in science. There is also a counterpart in the Arts, they are called National Artists. These 2 titles are equivalent, and the National Scientists are eligible to receive stipends. Overall, we are organised into 6 divisions, which are agricultural sciences, biological sciences, chemical, mathematical and physical sciences, engineering sciences, health sciences, as well as social sciences. We are unique in the sense that we have a social science group which is very actively involved in issues of national importance. The membership is quite evenly distributed over the faculties, but because of our small number, it is not possible to get engaged in all issues that are emerging in the country’s development or in science and technology. Every year, we sponsor an annual scientific meeting – the last has just been held in July 2013 here in Manila – which run very well with new ideas coming in every time. Things are moving, and we are trying very hard to promote science and technology not just for science’s sake, but also in terms of human resources. You know, Filipinos are very marketable globally, and thus we also face an issue of brain drain as boundaries are becoming less and less important.

Q: Are there programmes to keep people in the country?

A: Keeping people here depends very much on the science and technology environment. There are many factors influencing that, and many are outside of the control of scientist themselves. If one works in a public research institution, for example, then one has to contend with civil service regulations and procurement rules on the public money, which it sometimes not easy to handle nor flexible. More often than not research is treated like everything else by the government with a one-size-fits-all approach that is used to simplify things. But, research cannot equated to running a police department or the army or a department that is operational in nature. Research has a very unique system and a unique culture. That is a risk necessary to take if we want new ideas to emerge, even if we use public money. I do not mean to loosely spend money, but we need a separate set of rules being set up. The other part is incentives for research infrastructure. Companies that provide scientific instruments and devices for research need to respond in a timely manner. For example, if we run a research project, we cannot wait 1 year until the next piece of equipment comes from a supplier. That supply chain is not quite in place yet. The system needs to be tweaked. If the environment is not making the scientist happy, then we are going to lose them. These people are not necessarily aiming to become super rich, it’s more about professionalism and serving the development needs of the country in a professional way.

Q: How are development problems tackled?

A: We say that development has to walk on two legs: One is technology, and the other one is governance. Technology alone will not suffice in moving a nation forward. It has to be matched with the appropriate policy environment which is largely in the realm of governance. Many observers say that technological backwardness in not merely accidental and is a consequence of the decisions that result in a policy environment that negatively affects progress in science and technology.

Q: Do you work with the international scientific community?

A: Yes, we are a member of the Association of Academies and Societies of Sciences in Asia, or AASSA, which has recently been established and will hold its executive committee meeting here in Manila in October 2013. At present, AASSA has 29 member countries from ASEAN,-Australia, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Russia, South Korea and China, among others. We have MOUs with other academies of sciences like the Indian Academy of Sciences and the German Academy of Sciences. We are also corresponding with The World Academy of Science, or TWAS, which was set up in 1983 by Physics Nobel Prize Laureate Abdus Salam of Pakistan. In collaboration with our international partners, we hold regular symposiums on current topics such as climate change – this September -, raw materials for manufacturing et cetera. However, we would like for our government travel policy to be relaxed so that scientists who are mostly working in government will have the opportunity to attend international conferences from where one learns about the leading edges in science and technology.

Q: How do you connect to the youth and the community?

A: We maintain what we call a science heritage center, it’s like a science museum, an exhibit hall located in Taguig City, with some exhibits being interactive which attracts younger people. Secondly, we recognise outstanding achievements of young scientists, a strategy which is aimed at people that already have their Master’s degrees or Doctorates or may already be in academe. These awardees are carefully selected  and are given a trophy, a cash award and a research grant.

Q: Looking forward, what’s on the map for the academy?

A: I would like to see it being more active on the advisory side. That’s now limited by our resources as we, in average, just have 10 scientists per division. It would be good if we could engage more by using additional resources, such as outside groups that can help us deal with several issues. Right now, our effectiveness relies on our individual involvements. Many of our members are engaged in panels or higher education projects and such. Individually, they do have some influence and are involved, but the academy as a whole needs to move in that direction.

Q: Do you see synergies between the public and the private sector?

A: That certainly needs to be addressed. I am encouraging people to work out strategies to include research and development in public-private partnerships. PPP today is largely concerned with  infrastructure, so the question is how to leverage public and private resources to move faster with research and development. However, there are no guidelines to do that.

Q: This makes PPP a higher risk for investors?

A: I think if there are bold steps being taken by the private sector, why should we wait for the government’s PPP activities? However, with the government starting to invest in improving the research infrastructure such as the establishment of testing laboratories, the risk is becoming smaller and smaller.

Q: What was the greatest achievement of NAST so far?

A: It is the recognition that we can speak out to people who have achieved great things in their lives. The most prominent social, agricultural and marine scientists are members of our academy. We are very proud of our members. A good number of them have retired, but we will support them so that they can maintain their research. Scientists in the Philippines don’t earn much, and some will pass away impoverished. However, the government is doing its best to correct this situation and ensure a secure future for our scientists and engineers.

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Reading Time: 5 minutes

William G. Padolina, president of the National Academy of Science and Technology, Philippines

The National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST), Philippines, was created in 1976 to recognise outstanding achievements in science and technology and to serve as a reservoir of competent scientific and technological manpower for the country. Inside Investor met NAST’s president William G. Padolina.

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Padolina
William G. Padolina, president of the National Academy of Science and Technology, Philippines

The National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST), Philippines, was created in 1976 to recognise outstanding achievements in science and technology and to serve as a reservoir of competent scientific and technological manpower for the country. Inside Investor met NAST’s president William G. Padolina.

Q: Can you give a brief overview of NAST?

A: NAST was organised in 1976 by presidential decree by former president Ferdinand Marcos. It was intended to be an advisor and recognition body to the government on issues of science and technology. The academy is composed of elected members, and there is a certain amount of votes a new member must receive from existing members. Right now, we have 63 members, 13 of whom are National Scientists. This is an honour awarded by the President of the Philippines for outstanding achievements in science. There is also a counterpart in the Arts, they are called National Artists. These 2 titles are equivalent, and the National Scientists are eligible to receive stipends. Overall, we are organised into 6 divisions, which are agricultural sciences, biological sciences, chemical, mathematical and physical sciences, engineering sciences, health sciences, as well as social sciences. We are unique in the sense that we have a social science group which is very actively involved in issues of national importance. The membership is quite evenly distributed over the faculties, but because of our small number, it is not possible to get engaged in all issues that are emerging in the country’s development or in science and technology. Every year, we sponsor an annual scientific meeting – the last has just been held in July 2013 here in Manila – which run very well with new ideas coming in every time. Things are moving, and we are trying very hard to promote science and technology not just for science’s sake, but also in terms of human resources. You know, Filipinos are very marketable globally, and thus we also face an issue of brain drain as boundaries are becoming less and less important.

Q: Are there programmes to keep people in the country?

A: Keeping people here depends very much on the science and technology environment. There are many factors influencing that, and many are outside of the control of scientist themselves. If one works in a public research institution, for example, then one has to contend with civil service regulations and procurement rules on the public money, which it sometimes not easy to handle nor flexible. More often than not research is treated like everything else by the government with a one-size-fits-all approach that is used to simplify things. But, research cannot equated to running a police department or the army or a department that is operational in nature. Research has a very unique system and a unique culture. That is a risk necessary to take if we want new ideas to emerge, even if we use public money. I do not mean to loosely spend money, but we need a separate set of rules being set up. The other part is incentives for research infrastructure. Companies that provide scientific instruments and devices for research need to respond in a timely manner. For example, if we run a research project, we cannot wait 1 year until the next piece of equipment comes from a supplier. That supply chain is not quite in place yet. The system needs to be tweaked. If the environment is not making the scientist happy, then we are going to lose them. These people are not necessarily aiming to become super rich, it’s more about professionalism and serving the development needs of the country in a professional way.

Q: How are development problems tackled?

A: We say that development has to walk on two legs: One is technology, and the other one is governance. Technology alone will not suffice in moving a nation forward. It has to be matched with the appropriate policy environment which is largely in the realm of governance. Many observers say that technological backwardness in not merely accidental and is a consequence of the decisions that result in a policy environment that negatively affects progress in science and technology.

Q: Do you work with the international scientific community?

A: Yes, we are a member of the Association of Academies and Societies of Sciences in Asia, or AASSA, which has recently been established and will hold its executive committee meeting here in Manila in October 2013. At present, AASSA has 29 member countries from ASEAN,-Australia, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Russia, South Korea and China, among others. We have MOUs with other academies of sciences like the Indian Academy of Sciences and the German Academy of Sciences. We are also corresponding with The World Academy of Science, or TWAS, which was set up in 1983 by Physics Nobel Prize Laureate Abdus Salam of Pakistan. In collaboration with our international partners, we hold regular symposiums on current topics such as climate change – this September -, raw materials for manufacturing et cetera. However, we would like for our government travel policy to be relaxed so that scientists who are mostly working in government will have the opportunity to attend international conferences from where one learns about the leading edges in science and technology.

Q: How do you connect to the youth and the community?

A: We maintain what we call a science heritage center, it’s like a science museum, an exhibit hall located in Taguig City, with some exhibits being interactive which attracts younger people. Secondly, we recognise outstanding achievements of young scientists, a strategy which is aimed at people that already have their Master’s degrees or Doctorates or may already be in academe. These awardees are carefully selected  and are given a trophy, a cash award and a research grant.

Q: Looking forward, what’s on the map for the academy?

A: I would like to see it being more active on the advisory side. That’s now limited by our resources as we, in average, just have 10 scientists per division. It would be good if we could engage more by using additional resources, such as outside groups that can help us deal with several issues. Right now, our effectiveness relies on our individual involvements. Many of our members are engaged in panels or higher education projects and such. Individually, they do have some influence and are involved, but the academy as a whole needs to move in that direction.

Q: Do you see synergies between the public and the private sector?

A: That certainly needs to be addressed. I am encouraging people to work out strategies to include research and development in public-private partnerships. PPP today is largely concerned with  infrastructure, so the question is how to leverage public and private resources to move faster with research and development. However, there are no guidelines to do that.

Q: This makes PPP a higher risk for investors?

A: I think if there are bold steps being taken by the private sector, why should we wait for the government’s PPP activities? However, with the government starting to invest in improving the research infrastructure such as the establishment of testing laboratories, the risk is becoming smaller and smaller.

Q: What was the greatest achievement of NAST so far?

A: It is the recognition that we can speak out to people who have achieved great things in their lives. The most prominent social, agricultural and marine scientists are members of our academy. We are very proud of our members. A good number of them have retired, but we will support them so that they can maintain their research. Scientists in the Philippines don’t earn much, and some will pass away impoverished. However, the government is doing its best to correct this situation and ensure a secure future for our scientists and engineers.

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