DESPITE the inauguration of the St. Thomas Aquinas Research Complex, the University still has to contend with factors that militate against the establishment of a research culture. Some of these factors are endemic not only to UST, but to the country as well.

As a complement to the inauguration of the Complex, UST held a research colloquium that tackled ways to improve the research culture in UST.

In his talk, Dr. Rogelio A. Panlasigui, undersecretary for research and development at the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), discussed building a research culture last Nov. 16. He cited the results of the year 2000 Asiaweek survey of best universities, where the ranking of the top Philippine universities—Ateneo de Manila, De La Salle University, University of the Philippines-Diliman, and University of Santo Tomas—in the research category were very low compared to their Asian counterparts.

Panlasigui said these results indicated that very few researchers get their researches published in journals. He added that this needs to be corrected by providing a proper environment for research. To achieve this, it is necessary to create means to expand research and development, to establish suitable infrastructure for research, and to encourage cooperation and exchange between different disciplinary fields, he explained.

According to the 1999 survey for research and development (R&D) expenditures, Dr. Panlasigui said the Philippines spent only about $51 million in research, and ranked 47 among 48 countries around the world.

“Indeed, expanding research and development calls for substantially increasing research investment,” he said.

Moreover, Panlasigui said that developed economies allot 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on R&D. The Philippines’ neighbors, Malaysia and Singapore spend 1.2 percent to 1.4 percent of their GDP on R&D. In contrast, the Philippines spends only 0.14 to 0.2 percent.

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The private sector finances only 15 percent of the total R&D expenditures in the country, he added. DOST meanwhile is allotted only 0.47 percent of the national budget for its expenditures.

Despite the little money invested on R&D, Dr. Panlasigui said that a balanced progress on the basic and applied sciences, in the social sciences, and humanities is still the priority of R&D. This will be carried out in the universities, to help in the development of science and technology in the country.

Likewise, raising outstanding young researchers in the future, Panlasigui said, involves fostering in them qualities of individuality, creativity, acute analytical skills, and lively curiosity. They should have a broad perspective of their mission and role in society and a flexible intellect backed by extensive basic knowledge.

Panlasigui said that researchers must also understand global research trends and exchange ideas with their counterparts in other countries. They must also be adequately supported financially by the university’s research funds so they can focus on their researches and present them in journals and in conventions here and abroad. This will raise university research to international standards.

In addition, to create an ideal research environment, government institutions and the industry must cooperate by giving subsidies and incentives to universities that conduct research activities.

Meanwhile, Bro. Rolando Dizon, F.S.C., president of the De La Salle University (DLSU) shared his views on how to source funds for research.

Bro. Dizon said that the university must prioritize its research aims and cited several ways on how to achieve a good research environment.

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Some of his suggestions were: to deload or reduce the load of teachers in proportion to the research load; to give incentives to faculty members who publish their papers in local or international journals; to give material support for paper presentations in local and international conventions; to have a development office for research in each college; to seek professional consultants for objective evaluation of research programs; and to establish research centers in the university.

The interesting part of the discussion was how to attract more funds for university research. Bro. Dizon suggested that aside from getting funds from tuition, it would be very useful to tap the alumni of the university to donate. Successful alumni would be willing to give back to the school as a way of gratitude.

Likewise, Bro. Dizon also suggested the concept of subsidiary businesses, where profits from well-managed university printing press, selling insurance to the campus community, and job placements for graduates of the school can be funneled to research funds.

Aside from these means, Dizon also suggested selling bonds, or an advanced collection scheme where student slots in the university may be sold in advance to parents who wish to invest in their child’s college education. Funds may also be generated from product development research, which means collecting fees from the private sector for analysis and testing of its commercial products.

Bro. Dizon emphasized the crucial factors in attracting funds for the school: good timing, goodwill towards the alumni, and sustained credibility of the school.

But research should be conducted for human benefit. In this case research should be governed by ethics. This was emphasized by Fr. Rector Tamerlane Lana O.P.

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Fr. Lana talked about research integrity, which covers a wide sphere of research. He explained that since much of the studies are focused on medical research, human subjects should be protected. He cited the four principles of bioethics: respect for autonomy covering voluntary participation and informed consent of the subject; nonmaleficence, or not putting the subjects at risk of harm; beneficence or benefits that can be derived from research; and justice or respect for the human dignity of the person.

He said ethics is also necessary to assure that good comes out of research. As an example, Fr. Lana noted the benefits of stem cell research in revolutionizing medical treatment, yet the dark side is the destruction of embryos for this purpose. Likewise, the prospect of genetic enhancement is possible with the completion of the Human Genome Project. But this leads to human cloning, which is “an aberration of man’s propensity to play God.”

Fr. Lana also stressed the importance of intellectual honesty, moral integrity and trustworthiness in research, for these are the pillars of scientific research. But when a researcher attempts to fabricate and falsify results, or even plagiarize or copy the work of others without due citation, it is a flagrant violation of ethical principles.

That is why it is necessary to maintain public trust, Fr. Lana said, so as not to lose credibility and to enable researchers and scientists to spur the growth of science for the good of humanity.

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