THE BRAIN drain in this country, especially in the sciences, owes to causes beyond adequate compensation.

According to Dr. Graciano Yumul, Departmenst of Science and Technology (DOST) undersecretary for research and development, the exodus of scientists is inevitable for lack of research opportunities in the country. Holders of masters and doctorate degrees in the sciences tend to go to other countries with high-technology research facilities.

“Considering the Philippines is still a developing country, we cannot compete in terms of developed research resources,” Yumul said. To address the problem, Yumul said that DOST has been promoting the Balik Scientist program since 1975.

The Balik Scientist program targets Filipino scientists residing abroad, giving them working contracts with the government so they can return and work in the Philippines. Awards are given depending on the service or prestige rendered by the scientist to the country.

“We allow scientists to go out of the country to do their researches, but Balik Scientist is trying to instill in them a sense of nationalism by inviting them to come back to the country to share their knowledge,” he said.

The program has been successful so far, with Filipino scientists abroad returning to give lectures and classes. From 1975 to 2005, Balik Scientist has awarded 112 local scientists for staying in the Philippines and 179 researchers for coming back to the country after completing their studies.

But researchers who come back are mostly those who have contracts with their sponsoring universities. Usually, only retired scientists return, and those at the peak of their careers prefer to stay abroad.

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According to Dean Fortunato Sevilla of the College of Science, the UST looks for ways for Filipino researchers to return, making them feel at home and productive. But the brain drain is more of a national problem.

“Matching the salary they can get abroad is not enough, facilities and resources should also be provided, since these scientists are researchers and are not attracted only by increased compensation from, say, teaching,” Sevilla said.

The diaspora is a double-edge sword too. “We are now subsidizing the educational needs of developed countries,” Yumul said. “Our doctors and scientists practice in the United States when in fact it was the Philippines that bore the cost of these people becoming doctors. Developed countries would only have to invest a little money for their improvement.”

It would take a great sense of nationalism for Filipino scientists not to leave the country for greener pasture abroad. But as long as opportunities and facilities are lacking in the country, the Philippines will continue to loose its gifted scientists.

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