June 26, 2004  (STAR) STAR SCIENCE By Gisela Padilla-Concepcion, PhD  -  Can The Philippine STAR offer readers more features on lifestyle, culture and other areas of human interest than it already does? An infrequently publicized sector of Philippine society thinks so — the Filipino scientists. The STAR, once again trailblazing, will offer starting this week STAR SCIENCE, a weekly column on a variety of science and technology topics written by Filipino scientists and science educators. This S&T (science and technology) column is intended for wide readership, for all literate, educated Filipinos — science and non-science professionals, government officials, civic leaders, businessmen and entrepreneurs, students, teachers, laymen and housewives alike. STAR SCIENCE would like to help improve the science literacy of the general public and contribute to the development of a science culture in the country. We hope to increase awareness of the potential impact of science and technology on our daily lives and on socio-economic conditions in our country.

STAR SCIENCE will present a balance or complement to the other regular features in The STAR, hoping to stimulate interest in readers, especially our youth, in socially relevant and important S&T topics. We will provide our youth some scientific intellectual challenges as an alternative, or in addition, to their more common preoccupation with song, dance, TV, theater, movies, food, entertainment, sports, business and politics. Feature articles on science in newspapers are oftentimes mainly reprinted from foreign publications.

In STAR SCIENCE, 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 or abroad. Sometimes, print media and television disseminate false, inaccurate or unverified scientific information. Our local scientists with different areas of expertise will be called upon by The STAR to verify and clarify scientific facts and correct scientific misinformation.

With our country’s seemingly insurmountable problems, 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 support more S&T and scientists in the country. 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 some of our Southeast Asian neighbors. If government 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 developing and prosperous countries, which is to build and strengthen their knowledge-based economies. The three technologies, ICT (information communication technology), biotechnology and nanotechnology, are the revolutionary technologies of the present and of the future, which will fuel economies toward accelerated productivity, growth and development. 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 biodiversity and its protection from the destructive effects of environmental pollution will translate to a much better quality of life for us and for our children.

STAR SCIENCE will be co-hosted by Drs. Edgardo D. Gomez and Gisela Padilla-Concepcion of the Marine Science Institute, UP Diliman. We will have fellow scientists with various expertise, particularly from UP and other universities, contribute articles that will be presented by themes such as health, disease, drugs and medicine; nutrition, food and agriculture; terrestrial and marine ecosystems and our rich biodiversity; environmental resource management and conservation, applied physics and geology, environmental chemicals and material science, agricultural and biomedical biotechnology; bioinformatics and biocomputing; science education, extension and entrepreneurship; and socio-economic, political and international trade issues relating to S&T. Readers, especially our youth, our science students and teachers, will be encouraged to send queries and comments on the articles to this address:

* * *

Gisela Padilla-Concepcion, PhD in Chemistry, is an associate professor at the UP Marine Science Institute, Diliman, Quezon City where she teaches graduate courses. She heads the Marine Natural Products Research Group which is engaged in the search for drugs from Philippine marine organisms for the treatment of cancer, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases, inflammation and immunosuppression.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved