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(Gen) Public Understanding of Science

 
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 08, 2006 9:50 am    Post subject: (Gen) Public Understanding of Science Reply with quote






Public understanding of science II: Research on medicinal plants
STAR SCIENCE By Flor Lacanilao, Ph.D.
The Philippine STAR 02/02/2006

The Department of Health has been promoting products of medicinal plants as alternative medicines. It cites their benefits and effectiveness. One-third of our population who cannot afford Western drugs can depend only on herbal medicines. Their low costs compared with those of conventional medicines will help many Filipino families, announced the DOH secretary, and that medicinal plants have been a subject of extensive research by Filipino scientists.

According to the Department of Science and Technology, 102 plants have been "scientifically validated for safety and efficacy." Ten of these plants are under different stages of development, and that studies have been completed on sambong, lagundi, and akapulko. From sambong and lagundi alone, a local maker of herbal drugs is earning millions of pesos. These we are told.

But recent reviews of the scientific literature on herbal medicinal products have a warning: THEY ARE NOT FREE OF RISK. One such review was conducted in 2002-2004 by scientists from the Department of Complementary Medicine, Universities of Exeter and Plymouth, United Kingdom and published in an international journal. The study focused on the toxicity, interactions, and quality of herbal products. Toxicity data indicate that some herbal drugs "have the potential to cause serious adverse events and fatalities." They "affect pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic factors and thus cause herb-drug interactions." Contamination, adulteration, or substitution of botanical material has repeatedly put patients in danger, and that most often implicated are herbal drugs from Asia. The review concludes that "the widespread notion of herbal drugs being inherently safe is naive at best and dangerous at worst," and that more research and more information are required to ensure consumers’ safety.

This paper examines the extent and quality of research done on sambong, lagundi, akapulko, ampalaya, coconut oil, and virgin coconut oil. Are there enough scientific studies to justify the booming market of their medicinal products?

References were obtained through the Google Scholar, which provides ways to search for scholarly journals, books, and unpublished papers. Some of them have abstracts and a few have full texts. Sourced materials are from academic publishers, professional societies, universities, and other scholarly organizations.

The search for literature used scientific names as keywords for sambong (Blumea balsamifera), lagundi (Vitex negundo), akapulko (Cassia alata), and ampalaya (Momordica charantia). These local plants have different names in other countries, and their scientific names are used in international publications. For coconut, the keywords are coconut oil and virgin coconut oil. To focus on articles with them as the main subjects, the search was confined to titles of articles that contain the keywords.

Retrieved titles were examined to separate those published in international journals. These are journals covered in the Clinical Medicine and Life Sciences editions of Current Contents (CC). Clinical Medicine covers 1,229 journals and Life Sciences, 1,368. These are indexes of the Institute for Scientific Information (www.isinet.com). The journals in CC editions are also covered in ISI’s Science Citation Index or Science Citation Index Expanded. No Philippine medical journal has yet met the standards for inclusion in these indexes.

The same citation indexes are the source of publication and citation data used in ranking nations, universities, or individuals when assessing their performance in science and technology. Examples have appeared in the journals Nature and Science, and the magazine Scientific American. In last year’s evaluation of universities, for instance, none from the Philippines made it to the first 100 in the Asia-Pacific or the first 500 in the world (http://ed.sjtu.edu.cn/ranking.htm).

My earlier article in this column discusses the importance of publishing studies in international journals or CC journals. Such published paper is called scientific paper or valid publication. A research paper published elsewhere is called gray literature because it is not adequately peer-reviewed, and it is not widely accessible for verification. It is not referred to as a scientific study. In this paper, journals covered by Current Contents will be called "int. journal" or journal.

Results of the search for references consisted of only four titles for virgin coconut oil, five for sambong, 31 for lagundi, 63 for akapulko, 234 for ampalaya and 291 for coconut oil. The total is 628 titles. From these, 245 (39 percent) are published in int. journals, with Filipino authors in the country contributing only four int. journal papers (see Table).

One journal paper with Filipino authors is on bioactivities of akapulko by IM Villasenor et al. from UP Diliman’s Institute of Chemistry. It was published in Phytotherapy Research in 2002. Another journal paper by Filipino authors is on virgin coconut oil by AL Agero and VM Verallo-Rowell of the Makati Medical Center. Their paper, published in Dermatitis in 2004, shows that virgin coconut oil is effective and safe when used as a moisturizer. The other two journal papers by Filipinos are on antimutagenic properties of ampalaya by AP Guevara et al., also of UP Diliman’s Institute of Chemistry. Their papers appeared in Mutation Research in 1990 and in Phytochemistry.

Ampalaya showed the largest number of int. journal papers, 115 (49 percent). Authors are dominated by scientists from India. Only two papers are authored by our researchers. Most of the titles are medicinal, and relate to blood sugar level or show hypoglycemic effect in laboratory animals. One article published in 2003 reviews ampalaya’s efficacy and safety. It concludes that adequately placebo-controlled trials are needed to properly assess safety and efficacy before ampalaya can be routinely recommended.

Coconut oil yielded also a large number of journal papers, 97 (33 percent), but none by Filipino authors in the country. Almost all of the titles contain a wide variety of health-related and clinical terms – infant nutrition, organ function, metabolic effects, skin disease, STDs, atherosclerosis, platelet function, serum lipids, etc. And just about all are on laboratory or domestic animals. No review of literature was seen on the safety of coconut oil as medicine. None of the titles have HIV or AIDS.

In sum, results show that out of 628 titles examined on the five local plants, 245 (39 percent) are scientific papers (int. journal papers). The four papers with Filipino authors are on akapulko, virgin coconut oil, and ampalaya. There are many retrieved titles with Filipino authors or published in the country; 10 are on coconut oil. They are among the non-journal papers and can hardly be verified by international peers. Hence, as mentioned above, such papers are not counted in research evaluation, and they are not considered here.

The data show that there are no sufficient scientific studies to justify the development of medicinal products from sambong, lagundi, akapulko, and virgin coconut oil. Where are the results of the extensive research on medicinal plants by Filipino scientists, as claimed by the DOH? I think it is clear that the state of scientific research in the country, or elsewhere, on the four products does not support the government’s campaign to use these products. The potential of ampalaya and coconut oil for developing drugs is indicated. But problems with toxicity and interactions with prescribed drugs require more research. Hence, considering all examined data, the answer to the question asked in the introduction is no, there are not enough research done on the efficacy and safety to support the booming market of medicinal and food supplements from these plants. And I will focus the rest of my discussion by asking a few more.

Does testimonial or anecdotal evidence on the effects of drugs derived from plants justify the government’s promotion of their use? What is our health department doing to guard the consumers’ safety in view of scientific findings that herbal drugs are not free of risk? Why did the few and unverified studies on the much-publicized virgin coconut oil win the approval of its products by the Bureau of Food and Drugs? On the other hand, numerous studies on saw palmetto (from the berry of a dwarf palm found in the US) have repeatedly verified its viable treatment of enlarged prostate in men. It has been clinically proven to relieve the symptoms of medically diagnosed benign prostate enlargement in men. But it is yet to be evaluated by the US Food and Drug Administration.

Let me stress the recent findings of the scientific review on herbal drugs mentioned above. All herbal medicinal products (HMPs) contain a variety of pharmacologically active constituents, and users often combine HMPs with prescribed drugs. "Thus herb-drug interactions are a real possibility." Since they are natural products, some constituents can be good or harmful to body systems or organs. Each of these constituents has not been thoroughly studied to know at what amount and required time each is effective in giving the cure or harm to the body. The studies on our medicinal plants seen above confirm that most of the claimed benefits from their products are anecdotal or testimonial. And literature reviews of the use of herbal products worldwide reveal numerous examples of liver, kidney, or other organ damage. More research is required on our plant medicinal products, particularly on the harmful constituents, to minimize the risk they pose to consumers’ health. The excellent training of our medical doctors is shown by their reluctance to prescribe herbal drugs routinely.

Finally, on the question of promoting science in the country, which starts with the proper publication of results so that these can be taken seriously: Why hasn’t the DOST made publication experience in int. journals a requirement for funding proposals? "Just printing results doesn’t validate them." And they don’t count in established international evaluation of research performance. Changing our funding practice will not only save money but will also justify increasing the R&D budget. It will improve the state of scientific research, and someday this may make herbal products effective and safe medicines. We have some able researchers (scientists) on natural products, including those who authored the four papers on medicinal plants mentioned above. They are the ones who should be given support and unlimited funds to be able to write enough science. The future of drug development from our natural products depends on them. A final note to our administrators of funding agencies: Yes, we are a poor country, and "if you think research is costly, try disease." * * *
The author got his Ph.D. in zoology (specialization in comparative endocrinology) from the University of California at Berkeley. His published papers in international journals include those in Comp Gen Endocrinol, Proc Soc Exp Biol Med, Comp Biochem Physiol, and Science. Lacanilao is a retired professor of marine science at UP Diliman and a former chancellor of UP Visayas. E-mail him at flor_lacanilao@yahoo.com


*************************************************************

Questions to explore further this topic:

What are scientific journals?

http://www.visionlearning.com/.....hp?mid=123

Do you know what to believe (in science)?

http://www.senseaboutscience.o.....wGuide.pdf

What is peer review?

http://www.nature.com/nature/w.....sible.html

What are citations?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citations

Essays on citations and analysis of scientific literature

http://scientific.thomson.com/free/essays/

What are journal impact factors?

http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi.....4/7079/497

Can scientific journals be compromised?

http://www.cspinet.org/new/200211191.html
http://www.csicop.org/doubtandabout/deja-vu/

Is there politics in peer review?

http://www.csicop.org/doubtandabout/peerreview/

What is scientific writing for the general public?

http://www.americanscientist.o.....;print=yes
http://www.nserc.ca/seng/how1en.htm
http://www.stempra.org.uk/Comp.....nicate.htm

Here is an example of an issue that requires a public understanding of science:

http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/...../5702/1686

Electronic publishing of scientific journals

http://www.aas.org/~pboyce/epubs/pt-art.htm
http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/


Last edited by adedios on Sat Jan 27, 2007 3:30 pm; edited 2 times in total
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2006 2:28 pm    Post subject: Scientists and their social responsibility Reply with quote

Scientists and their social responsibility
Evelyn Mae Tecson-Mendoza, Ph.D.
Sun Feb 12,2006
Manila Bulletin


SCIENTISTS have a major responsibility to the youth – to help young people enjoy, appreciate, and be excited by science. Enrolment in science and engineering courses in universities is decreasing. The downward trend may have been caused by the system of education itself, particularly in science; the low quality training of science teachers; and the low salary, social status, and recognition of science teaching.


Cognizant of this problem, the scientific community has realized that strategic change in education must start at the primary school level. This strategy involves a discoverybased primary school science and mathematics education.

In the early 1990s, Nobel Laureate Professor Leon Lederman led the formation of the Teachers Academy for Mathematics and Science (TAMS) in Chicago. In 1995, after a visit to Chicago, the French Academy of Sciences led by Nobel Laureate Professor Georges Charpak initiated a similar program called La Main à la Pâte (LAMAP). Many academies of science in China, Egypt, Morocco, Lebanon, Vietnam, and Malaysia have since adopted primary school science education programs similar to the TAMS or the French programs.

The La Main à la Pâte (Hands-on) Program (LAMAP) is a science education program in primary schools in France, which involves hands-on experimentation by school children. The teachers challenge, guide, and encourage students to think, analyze, discuss, verbalize and write their thoughts. In the process, teachers and scientists interact via the Internet on scientific problems and teachers interact with fellow teachers on classroom experiences and problems.

In the five years that LAMAP has been practiced in about 20 percent of the schools in France, it has been observed that 6- to12-year old children are open to and enjoy science and that students not only learn science but also speak and write better. Teachers who do not have a degree in science can be very good science teachers. While the partners of the program (researchers, engineers) are necessary, their role should be well defined and they are not allowed to teach or have direct interaction with the school children. Also, the use of Internet for teachers to interact with other teachers and partners has great potential. Nevertheless, this requires heavy investment and regular updating. However, it was also found that support from society and government institutions has rather been slow.

In the Philippines, there are several similar ongoing science-education programs that are hands-on and discovery-based. NAST is now looking at how scientists can further help improve the science education program of the country, especially at the primary school level, to help children discover nature on their own. The Committee on Science and Technology and Sub-Committee on Education of Science and Technology of the House of Representatives is also looking into the adoption of a program like the LAMAP for science education in the country. As Professor Quéré, member of the French Academy of Sciences aptly puts it, not all can be mountaineers to scale Mt. Everest and be able to appreciate its beauty. However, other people without the skills and talents of such mountaineers can also appreciate the beauty of Mt. Everest. Similarly with science, one does not have to be a scientist to appreciate its beauty.

In December 2003, 68 academies of science all over the world, including the NAST Philippines, became signatories to the International Academy Panel (IAP) Statement on Science Education of Children. The IAP recommended to all national leaders the following:

1. Teaching of the sciences to both girls and boys should begin in their primary and nursery schools. There is evidence that children, from the youngest age, are capable of building upon their natural and insatiable curiosity to develop logical and rational thought;

2. This teaching should be closely tied to the realities with which the children are confronted locally, in their natural environment and culture, in order to facilitate continuing exchange with their family and friends;

3. This teaching should be based, to a large extent, upon models of inquiry-based pedagogy, assigning a major role to questioning by the students, leading them to develop hypotheses relating to the initial questions and, when possible, encouraging experimentation that, while simple in terms of the apparatus used, can be performed by children themselves;

4. One should avoid, as far as possible, a teaching of the sciences which is handed down vertically by a teacher enunciating facts to be learnt by heart, in favor of one which is transformed for children into an acquisition of knowledge which is horizontal, that is, which connects them with nature – inert or living – directly, at the same time involving their senses and their intelligence;

5. Links should be established between teachers, via the Internet, first within their own country, then internationally, taking advantage of the universal nature of the laws of science to establish a direct contact between classes in different countries on subjects of global interest (e.g., climate, ecology, geography);

6. Priority should be given to the networking of schools, and support should be given – in the same way as IAP and the International Council for Science (ICSU) work on this jointly via the website: http://www.icsu.org/events/icsu-iap – to efforts to develop shareable experiments and teaching tools (such as documents and experiment portfolios) to be placed in an electronic commons for all to modify and use.

Scientists have recognized that they have a primary responsibility to promote the teaching of science to children in ways that will "develop their natural and insatiable curiosity to develop logical and rational thought."
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 02, 2006 10:10 am    Post subject: Free access to a digital library for developing countries Reply with quote

Springer
24 February 2006

Free access to a digital library for developing countries
Springer participates in the initiative OARE


As of 2006 more than 130 environmental journals from the scientific publisher Springer will be part of the initiative Online Access to Research in the Environment (OARE), a digital library for developing countries. Public and non-profit institutions in underdeveloped nations in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean and Eastern Europe will have free access to the peer-reviewed scientific literature of Springer and other leading international publishing houses.
Springer's Environmental Online Library covers a range of publications in topics spanning the uncharted depths of the oceans to the outer reaches of our atmosphere. Springer, one of the founding publishers of OARE, has also made available works on environmental policy – identifying how human behavior can be modified in the future to help minimize problems such as ground water con-tamination and the depletion of the ozone layer.

"Helping to improve access to environment, health and nutrition information in developing countries is a matter of course for us. We already participate enthusiastically in projects such as AGORA and HINARI. I would like to congratulate everyone involved in setting up OARE, which will un-doubtedly be yet another worthwhile effort," said Derk Haank, CEO of Springer Science+Business Media. The Springer environmental collection features journals such as Oecologia, Marine Biology, Climatic Change, Ecosystems, Environmental Geology and Water, Air, & Soil Pollution.

OARE will enable countries to build their own higher education programs in the environmental sciences, educate their own leaders, conduct their own research, publish their own scientific findings and disseminate information to policy makers and the public. Literature in environmental chemistry, economics, law and policy, and other environmental subjects such as botany, conservation biology, ecology and zoology will be available through a portal presented in several world languages, in-cluding Arabic, English, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

The project developing OARE is a partnership between Yale University, the United Nations Environment Programme, the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization, Cornell University, the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers (STM), and leading scientific publishers around the world.


###
Springer Science+Business Media (www.springer.com) is one of the world's leading suppliers of scientific and specialist literature. It is the second-largest publishing group in the science, technology, and medicine (STM) sector and the largest business-to-business publisher in the German-language area. The group owns 70 publishing houses, together publishing a total of 1,450 journals and more than 5,000 new books a year. The group operates in over 20 countries in Europe, the USA, and Asia, and has some 5,000 employees. Springer is an active partner in many developing countries initiatives such as Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture (AGORA), Health InterNetwork Access to Research Initiative (HINARI), Programme for the Enhancement of Research Information (PERI).
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 15, 2006 11:37 am    Post subject: Public understanding of science III: Training grad students Reply with quote

Public understanding of science III: Training graduate students
STAR SCIENCE By Flor Lacanilao, Ph.D.
The Philippine STAR 03/16/2006

We tried to catch up with our neighboring countries by rightly building up our S&T capabilities. Programs included increasing the R&D funding and the technical manpower. After a decade, however, established indicators showed no progress in S&T performance. Obviously, the S&T programs missed a basic objective – to improve research.

For instance, in 1991-1996, the DOST budget increased four-fold or from P854 million to P3.4 billion. It doubled to P1.7 billion in 1992. Further, holders of graduate degrees in science and engineering also significant increased. The UP College of Science alone granted 509 advanced degrees from 1985 to 1994, with 133 Ph.Ds. Our S&T capability, however, did not improve. Total yearly output of publications in international journals in 1981-1995 by national R&D institutions remained the same.

Scientists are again calling on the government to allot more money to improve S&T. It’s about time. I hope now programs would give more weight on the proper way of doing research. "You need to know how to do research properly before you can begin to think about commercializing discoveries."

If we hope to achieve our objectives this time around, we can no longer ignore the established norm of adequate peer review and verification of research results. Peer review and verification have more than three centuries of developing tradition. They have served science well. We can apply them in training graduate students. This can focus on thesis work, which is meant to be training in research. Since research is not completed until results are properly published and the best indicator of a good graduate training is publication of the thesis, we should include publication in the graduate program.

Below are some pointers to improve the training of graduate students in science. They are also useful for graduate faculty and those involved in R&D. Choosing a research problem
Funding agencies usually dictate the areas of research to support and often leaves grant applicants no choice but to work on problems out of their main interest. Output quality would then be below that of the research problem of their choice. Also, grant recipients would lose the chance to sustain their creativity and develop competitive ability. In our present state of S&T, we are yet aiming for a critical mass of competitive scientists.

Another problem is about the type of research, whether to go basic or applied. Poor countries are more on applied research, whereas basic studies are common in developed countries. In applied research, time for benefit is short, predictability is high, payoff is small, and scope of applicability is narrow. But in basic research, time for benefit is long, predictability is low, payoff is big, and scope of applicability is wide. These differences perhaps explain why rich nations get richer, whereas poor countries find it hard to develop.

Many of our researchers often ignore basic knowledge when doing applied research. Although relevant studies are available in the journal literature, they are seldom cited in most grant proposals and published papers. Hence, results from applied research often fail in field applications. Developed nations have shown that the greater are the needs for applied research, the more important become basic studies.

The big payoff and wide scope of applicability of basic research deserve more comment. Great scientific discoveries that changed our ways of life were not intended. This serendipitous nature of basic research has given us wonder drugs, lasers, computers, biotechnology, and many others. Every scientist who contributed to the development of biotechnology, for example, did not have biotechnology in mind. This stresses the point of leaving the choice of problems to scientists. As the Nobel Laureate Joshua Lederberg once said in connection with the development of biotechnology, "It would have been tragic were any industry to have had a veto in deciding what would truly be of greatest industrial consequence." Literature search
A major cause of poor research performance is the failure to search the journal literature. A common complaint is the lack of journals in the library. No library in a poor country can afford to subscribe to the journal needs of researchers. But references can be accessed through indexes that cover important journals. Recently, the Google Scholar has added a speedy way of accessing literature. Whereas literature review should be exhaustive, literature citation should be selective.

Libraries should therefore subscribe to indexes and limit other subscriptions to important review journals. Indexes vary in number and quality of covered journals. The most widely used indexes in the natural and social sciences are issued by the Institute for Scientific Information (www.isinet.com). Examples are the different editions of Current Contents (CC).

Choosing journals and articles for references will improve the quality of the data gathering and the publication arising from it. An indicator of article quality is the reference list. The integrity and quality of an article depends on the quality of the bibliography added to it. If the reference list of an article is more than 80 percent gray literature, and if you are a researcher, don’t waste time reading the article. Data gathering
Data gathering is the first main part of research; the second is proper publication. It is important to think of publication as an objective when gathering data. This improves data gathering as one thinks of peer review, references and methods, adequacy of data, controls, replicates, etc.

The best time to develop proper work habit is during the data gathering part of training. Much of the quality and usefulness of results depends on work habit. There is no substitute to observing the professor in his laboratory, or in the field, to learn the scientific habit. Unfortunately for our country, we rarely find a scientist whose only absence in his laboratory is holding class.

One work habit that should be corrected early in graduate training is sloppiness. Errors are caused by careless handling of data. If they leaked through the peer review, errors are propagated and can result in serious damage to the scientific literature. The other cause of errors is fraud. Sloppiness gives rise to unintentional errors; fraud, to intentional errors. Their damaging effects on science are the same. But we are often more concerned about fraud than sloppiness, when sloppiness is much more prevalent than fraud. And sloppiness is easier to correct during graduate training, but the tendency to fraud can be hereditary. Manuscript and publication
Normally, the first experience of publication comes from the thesis. The master’s thesis or a chapter of the doctoral thesis should therefore be a scientific manuscript, written following a "guide for authors" of a CC journal. A master’s program may require only such publishable manuscript. But a Ph.D degree should require at least a published chapter of the thesis. There is no sense in writing the thesis differently, then rewriting it for publication.

Three guides will be needed in preparing a manuscript: (a) a good book on scientific writing and publishing, (b) a "guide for authors" of a chosen journal, and (c) sample articles from the journal. A good book on scientific writing and publishing will show how to prepare the manuscript – stating the Title, writing the Abstract, Introduction, and Materials and Methods, designing Tables, preparing Illustrations, etc. A "guide for authors" and sample articles will show the details. You should be followed strictly. Presenting a paper orally
The purpose of oral presentation is to inform the audience and to improve the manuscript before publication. Scientists in the audience, by their questions and comments, can improve the paper. Some are helpful to young researchers, particularly to those serious in their work, which they can see in the manner of presentation. It is then important that one learns the basic rules of presenting a paper orally. These are described in a good book on writing and publishing scientific papers.

Presentation should cover main points only. Tables and figures will show results clearly and briefly. Prepare summary tables and figures selected from those in the manuscript. For example, reducing the number of columns and rows of tables will allow bigger prints. Avoid presenting tables and figures as they appear in the manuscript. Unlike in the written paper, projected images are seen only briefly. Well-prepared and properly sequenced slides will allow smooth presentation, with you talking less, and letting the slides convey the message. Some presenters read everything printed on the slide, forgetting that everyone in the audience can also read. Mechanisms of quality control
A manuscript usually undergoes a preliminary or informal peer review. Reading of a manuscript by a professor or colleague is an example. Another is presenting a paper in a seminar or scientific meeting as described above.

Then the manuscript goes through the standard device for quality control – the peer review. For adequate peer review of a manuscript, good journals have normally three referees active in research on the same specific subject. We do not have enough such reviewers in the country to adequately review manuscripts, one reason why researchers should publish in international journals.

Once the paper is published, it goes through the second and final stage of quality control – the peer verification. This occurs if the paper appeared in a journal covered in widely used indexes. International peers can then do verification studies by repeating experiments to disprove or confirm published results. This explains why improperly published results have largely failed in our technology generation. Research proposal
This topic is taken last to show that knowledge of research is needed in making a research proposal. If one knows the research process as outlined above, then preparing a proposal should be easy. Problems may still be met, however, until we have enough scientists to review proposals.

The three elements of a research proposal are (a) the funding agency and peer review, (b) scientific merit, and (c) proponent’s capability. I will only reason for the proponent’s capability. This is most crucial for advancing S&T, and it should be the main concern of funding agencies to avoid wasting funds. Evaluation of research proposals is simplified if publication experience is made the criterion in screening applicants. For example, only those with publications in CC-indexed journals should qualify for research grants as in developed countries.

With this requirement and funds available, we can expect every proponent to produce a scientific paper, which is what we expect from research, and what we need to advance science, so that we can have more useful technologies, and finally move on to real development. Whereas science alone cannot save the Philippines, the Philippines without science cannot be saved. This was also said of Africa.
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 26, 2006 6:00 pm    Post subject: Public understanding of science IV: Problems with media Reply with quote

Public understanding of science IV: Problems with media and scientists
STAR SCIENCE By Flor Lacanilao, Ph.D.
The Philippine STAR 07/27/2006

The public will remain uninformed and uneducated in science until the media professionals decide otherwise, until they stop quoting charlatans and quacks, and until respected scientists speak up. – The Scientist, 16 April 1990

There is trivia overload but little science reporting, says Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist Juan Mercado. Citing UP development communication professor Felix Librero, he asks, why journalists can’t do for science and technology what the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism does very well for politics?

This observation reflects the public’s poor understanding of science in the Philippines. The problem is not too little science stories being reported, but too much of them from non-scientists. The information that the public gets is largely propagated errors, taken as information in science. Hence, there is a widespread public ignorance of basic scientific concepts and procedures, which only scientists can explain.

When they try, however, they have to compete for media space and time with non-scientists, who greatly outnumber scientists. They also write and talk better. Scientists, on the other hand, are trained and practiced in scientific writing, the style of which is adapted for a distinct purpose and audience. They are then generally poor storytellers. It is still their duty, however, to communicate science to the public.

The media can improve their role in spreading science. It is important for media people to know who the scientists are since they produce the useful information. They can give more access to media and editorial aid, when scientists have science stories to tell. Media and scientists are the two promoters of science literacy. And only by working together can they be effective in giving the public the useful science information. RP’s information production
As discussed in previous papers in this column, scientists are researchers who have published papers in international refereed journals, which are indexed in Current Contents (CC) or Science Citation Index (SCI). These indexes are produced by the Institute for Scientific Information (www.isinet.com). Scientific papers or valid publications are research papers appearing in CC- or SCI-indexed journals, referred to as int. journals. A research paper published elsewhere is a gray literature (information produced without adequate peer review and verification). This is produced by non-scientists. It is the common output of research in the country, and it is the main source of information given to the public for education, development programs, and decision-making.

Because of its doubtful validity, gray literature doesn’t count in established assessments of S&T performance. It is the main reason why our country and universities always lag in international rankings of S&T capability and economic progress. Our science policymakers are yet to be aware of this, which is long past due.

The country produced only 249 int. journal papers in S&T in 1995. The rest were unpublished reports and gray literature. The int. journal papers made up only five percent of the country’s output. Nearly half of the int. journal papers were produced by the Los Baños-based International Rice Research Institute, which had only about three percent of the country’s PhDs in S&T. Worse, except for the University of the Philippines, the national production of scientific information has hardly improved. At least there is hope as the UP leads. Examples of poor science reporting
If journalists will do for S&T what the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism does very well for politics, as earlier suggested, but will get the information from non-scientists and the DOST, they will just continue propagating errors in science. Saying this in a nice way will not help the overall science program. It will just hide the truth.

An example is a recent cover story in Newsbreak (Jan. 30, 2006) on alternative medicine. Not one among those interviewed has any published papers in int. medical journal on the efficacy of herbal and coconut oil products. The boxed statement in the lead article says, "Conventional and alternative medicine can go hand in hand to provide integrative or holistic healthcare." This is dangerous if interpreted that consumers can take herbal drugs while taking prescribed medicines.

Numerous studies have shown the adverse interactions between herbal drugs and prescription medicines. Our medical doctors must know this, as there are also interactions between certain prescription medicines. Thus, unknowingly the authors and editor are endangering consumers’ safety when taking herbal drugs. Could this potential danger to consumers be offset by benefits that readers get from the report?

One would hardly fault some companies promoting herbal products for profit, their main aim. Nor would hosts of talk shows and documentaries be blamed for advertising them. But why would some of our medical doctors and the government agencies in health and S&T promote the use of herbal products and virgin coconut oil? And how can we trust the Bureau of Food and Drugs that approved a product of virgin coconut oil being advertised in newspapers?

There are not enough studies to guarantee their efficacy and protect consumers’ safety, as my study on medicinal plant research has shown in this column. No scientific review article has confirmed the efficacy and safety claimed for any of our herbal or coconut oil products. On the other hand, scientific reviews of the literature on the use of herbal products worldwide have documented numerous examples of liver, kidney or other organ damage.

Meanwhile, all forms of media, including talk shows and documentaries, continue to report claims of beneficial effects of herbal and coconut oil products promoted by non-scientists. Why don’t scientists speak up?
Some of them do or try. But they are overwhelmed by non-scientists. Here are some reasons:

First, unpublished PhDs (no publications in int. journal) outnumber our published PhDs in S&T many times over. Reasons include the following: (a) With few exceptions at UP, our PhD programs in science require only the bound thesis instead of valid publications, (b) most academic and R&D institutions recognize the doctoral degree without publications in int. journal, a practice not seen in any developed country, and (c) unpublished PhDs are given research grants by our funding agencies, and they continue to produce gray literature that entitles the author to honorarium, promotion, or even award.

Second, academic and R&D people in the humanities and social sciences publish more popular articles in science than scientists in the natural sciences and technology. They also appear more on television and radio programs. They participate actively in activities of community organizations (e.g. religious, environmental, health) that support the public’s science education.

Third, unlike most non-scientists, scientists are largely poor writers for the general audience. They are trained and experienced in scientific writing, which has different rules. Research reports that they write are addressed to fellow scientists for verification, not to the general public to use. Whereas the popular article provides information to the curious reader, the scientific paper "seeks to argue persuasively a new claim" to peers with similar training. The scientist’s style clearly differs from that of popular communication. Getting used to the journalist’s style is not easy. Improving media’s role
Reliable sources of scientific information are available. Media people have only to learn how to get them. For instance, they should start by knowing a scientific paper from a gray literature, a scientist from a charlatan (defined above). There are indicators for each of these differences. The scientific paper, for example, separates the scientist from the charlatan. Find out from the Google Scholar (list of publications) and the CC or SCI index (list of int. journals).

One suggestion for editors is not to routinely refuse papers from scientists (once these have been verified) for reasons of poor style. Instead, why not edit the language for the general audience? Further, why refuse science stories previously submitted or published elsewhere? The popular science article should be treated like a news story published in different newspapers for the public’s information or entertainment. It is not a publication of original data that is barred dual publication in scientific journals. Science stories are intended for the information of maximum audience. What then is the reason for the desired exclusive coverage of science stories by our newspapers and magazines? Much useful information from scientists doesn’t reach as many readers as intended because of such editorial policies.

Whereas the scientist’s primary role is to produce scientific information (research), dissemination of verified information (extension work) is a scientist’s social responsibility. As discussed above, however, they are not trained to write for the community. But some try; a few struggle. This is where editors of science, health, or technology sections can help. For instance, section editors can invite scientists to submit papers on their research projects or interests, which can then be edited to suit the general audience. This way, editors are assured of getting useful scientific information from scientists rather than waiting for papers of doubtful quality from people of unknown skill.

Journalists can write about a scientist’s work. Or get information from scientists’ review papers in int. journals. Scientific review articles show which subjects have been adequately studied. They also tell which studies have been adequately verified. The quality of cited literature reflects the quality and integrity of a review article, whether or not this is from an int. journal. Then journalists can do for S&T what the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism does very well for politics.

Finally, the key to spread the public’s understanding of science is for media people and scientists to recognize their respective roles and to work together. And for our scientists to ponder the sad state of science literacy in the country while saying, "We have met the enemy, and he is us!" * * *
The author is a retired professor of marine science at UP Diliman, a former chief of the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center in the Philippines, and a former chancellor of UP Visayas.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 20, 2006 10:49 am    Post subject: Teen Talk: Science Needs to Dazzle Reply with quote

Teen Talk: Science Needs to Dazzle

By Jeanna Bryner
LiveScience Staff Writer
posted: 19 December 2006
12:38 pm ET

SAN FRANCISCO—Scientists who want to get their messages across to hip teens should spice up their presentations without dumbing down the science.

When it comes to climate change, educating the next generation of earth-saving scientists takes savvy, scientists said here last week at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

“Teenagers live in an MTV world so most things they are exposed to are slick and well produced,” said Katharine Giles, a research fellow at the Center for Polar Observation and Modelling in the United Kingdom. “So anything like a lecture should try and get to the same standard."

The Faraday Lecture of 2006 did just that. With swirling lights, electronic music, videos and lots of audience participation, more than 30,000 attendees got a dose of “Emission Impossible: Can Technology Save the Planet?”

For the full article:

http://www.livescience.com/env.....imate.html
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 04, 2007 12:46 pm    Post subject: International science: Function, dysfunction and flowers in Reply with quote

International science: Function, dysfunction and flowers in a grassy field
STAR SCIENCE By Raul Kamantigue Suarez, Ph.D.
The Philippine STAR 04/05/2007


(First of two parts)

I read a series of valuable articles published in Star Science by Dr. Flor Lacanilao that, I am told, sparked negative and defensive reactions because they discussed how science should be done and how the Filipino scientific community has largely failed in its mission to serve the people. As a Filipino scientist who received his doctoral education in Canada and now works as aprofessor in the US, I have had the opportunity to get a sense of how science is done internationally through many years of research expeditions, conferences and direct contacts with international scientists. The purpose of this article is not to provide a scholarly analysis of how well various countries are doing in science and how they managed to do it. Neither is it meant to be a frontal attack upon the way science is administered or conducted in the Philippines. I am sensitive to the sometimes valid question of whether I have any right to be critical, given my abandonment of mi patria adorada. I would like readers to regard this article as more of a series of anecdotes that will hopefully provoke introspection and discussion among Filipino scientists, science administrators, and the tax-paying public. It is the latter, after all, who pay scientists to do science and who are owed their money’s worth.

There is no perfect system in any country, so this is why, as I suggest in the title, what one sees internationally is a broad range or spectrum — as in the colors of the rainbow — a continuous gradation from "function," albeit imperfect, to complete "dysfunction." By functionality, I mean that the scientific community plays a positive role by generating new knowledge, by subjecting findings to peer-review (submission of scientific manuscripts to refereed journals), through success in having these submissions accepted and published (then read and cited by others in the international scientific community), by accountability for the way tax money is spent, and by serving as the engine of intellectual advancement and economic development. US science — ‘lean and mean’
The US is considered to be the world-leader in science, so I shall start with some facts and anecdotes about US science. Perhaps a common notion among Filipinos might be that there is so much money for and so many jobs in science, as well as so many great scientists to interact with and learn from that the US must be "science-heaven on earth." Well, yes, there is a lot of money, but this has to be thought of in relation to the number of scientists, the number of research universities and institutions, and the needs of society. Taking all these into account, there is little doubt that US funding for science is insufficient and that this is at least partly because too many tax dollars go into such things as foreign invasions and supporting what Eisenhower referred to as the "military industrial complex." But I should digress no further.

The consequence of the above is that the lives of university scientists are now very different compared to what they were like in the 1960s, and very different from what most readers of this article may envision. Let me illustrate. When scientists apply for research funding from the US National Science Foundation (NSF), a federal agency, each application is reviewed by six to eight anonymous referees. Their written reviews are evaluated by a panel of 15 or so scientists under the supervision of a program director. Each panel member is assigned to present several proposals to the group. Then, everyone is invited to comment on the strengths and weaknesses of each proposal. The panel ranks the proposals and the program director makes the final decision concerning which ones to fund and how much money to give. The typical funding rate is between 10 and 15 percent — meaning 10 to 15 applications get funded out of every 100 submitted nationwide each time the panel meets (panels meet twice a year). So the very low success rate reflects how little money there is. Having been a panel member myself, I can say that a funding rate of 30 percent would be more fair and would still fund the mosthighly deserving scientists. Nevertheless, the system is such that a proposal of poor quality, submitted by a mediocre scientist, could not possibly be funded. Panels award grants to the "top 10-15 percent" based on the quality of the proposals and the track records of the applicants.

Professors in major universities typically spend more time writing grant applications, doing research, and writing research papers than teaching. This is as it should be — universities do not just teach; they exist for the advancement of knowledge. But the enterprise costs money and virtually all US universities survive financially by charging research grants "indirect costs." What this means is that at the University of California at Santa Barbara, about 45 percent of my NSF grant money goes to the university. In addition, universities pay faculty nine-month salaries, so many of themadd two months of summer salary into their grant budgets. This system greatly increases the amounts individual scientists must ask for and contributes to the low funding rates. All these characteristics lead to my description of the system as "lean" — referring to its lack of fat.

Now, I’ll get to how it is "mean." The young US scientist with a recent Ph.D. degree and a few years of postdoctoral research training faces a formidable challenge. Landing a faculty position involves successfully competing with 50 (or maybe even 100 or more) highly qualified applicants. To become tenured (which means to be made a permanent faculty member) requires research and the publication peer-reviewed research papers of sufficient quantity and quality. Obviously, this requires that sufficient funds be raised to support the research. Therefore, this young person has to be, at the very least, one of the top 10 to 15 percent of US scientists from the perspective of funding agencies. I say "at the very least" because tenure decisions are based on peer review and not on grant dollars alone. The quality and quantity of research publications, teaching and service are scrutinized within one’s department, at higher levelswithin the university, as well as externally by several external referees. Those who don’t measure up are denied tenure and asked to leave; in a few elite universities, only 10 percent of new faculty make it to tenure. I should add, however, that it would be a mistake to think that the unfortunates never move on to live happy, productive lives. There are jobs in industry, small colleges, government agencies, etc. But for those who survive, performing successfully in a system with extraordinarily high expectations, among ambitious, opinionated, ego-inflated colleagues (each at or near the top of their respective fields) can be an enjoyable life — in a somewhat perverted way. However, failure to land a faculty job, denial of tenure, and the demands of the profession even among those who succeed have also led to embittered lives, failed marriages and, in a few instances, shots fired and the SWAT team in the coffee room. Long after tenure, internationally recognized professors who may have already authored leading textbooks and 100 or more scientific papers in their fields still compete in a system that funds 10 to 15 percent of applicants. US science is a meritocracy, geared to support only the best work done by the best people. Various degrees of leanness and meanness
Other Western, industrialized countries show variations on the theme of lean and mean. Much of Canadian science operates under a more benign funding system. NSERC, the Canadian equivalent of the American NSF, tends to spread research money around more than the Americans do. It is a more "socialist" approach where most, if not all, good scientists obtain some research funding, and only superstars get a lot. To stay in the game still requires ideas and research productivity, measured in the quality and quantity of research publications. The Canadian system is envied by many American scientists, especially those in my field. A downside is that expensive research, e.g., molecular biology, is difficult to conduct on NSERC funding alone, and scientists who perform such research must constantly scramble for money from additional sources. There are those who complain that mediocre research gets funded and that this money would be better spent by giving larger grants to better researchers. But Canadian universities do not charge their professors indirect costs and pay them 12-month salaries. This makes possible higher grant funding rates and lessens the tendency to value faculty in terms of how much money they bring in, a practice considered by some to be both capitalist and American. Not so, because British scientists now struggle with funding rates as low as those in the US and lack of state support for universities — something that began with Margaret Thatcher, I am told. In at least one of the best British universities, they have become obsessed with trying to measure (and increase) quality and productivity by demanding that scientists publish a minimum number of scientific papers per year, and only in the "best" scientific journals with the highest impact factors (a way of quantifying a scientific journal’s quality, previously discussed by Lacanilao).

Policies may be misguided or could be improved in the preceding examples, but they should be enough to convince readers of a number of things: Being a scientist is not easy; rather, it is a tough, fast-paced, fiercely competitive life, not too dissimilar from the life of a professional athlete or concert musician who must constantly perform at the highest level. This is because the scientific systems in these examples of "imperfect functionality" tend to be lean and mean, and are structured to support the only the "best." The resulting quality control produces what is arguably the best science these countries are capable of. Charlatans tend not to be hired by respectable institutions, are unable to secure government funding to support their work, and are deprived of the opportunity to waste taxpayers’ money. The positive outcomes are seen in how research and development fuel economic growth (there are studies that actually show the extent to which this is so), in how universities have evolved to become "playgrounds of the mind" (to borrow a phrase from Jose Rizal) — where independent scholars concern themselves with global climate change, the current biodiversity crisis, alternative energy sources, stem cell research, or the design of ancient Roman toilets, regardless of what George W. Bush says. And we know from history that from healthy, vibrant and productive scientific communities sprout discoveries that lead to new world-views and such things as light bulbs, penicillin, and computers — like flowers sprouting in a grassy field.

(To be concluded) * * *
Dr. Raul Kamantigue Suarez is a professor at the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology of the University of California, Santa Barbara, California 93106-9610, USA, and editor of the Journal of Experimental Biology, Cambridge, UK. E-mail him at suarez@lifesci.ucsb.edu
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 11, 2007 5:16 pm    Post subject: International science: Function, dysfunction and flowers in Reply with quote

International science: Function, dysfunction and flowers in a grassy field
STAR SCIENCE By Raul Kamantigue Suarez, Ph.D.
The Philippine STAR 04/12/2007

(Second of two parts)
Lessons from Latin America
So far, my stories have only provided readers with images of First World science. Moving on to examples of greater imperfection, I would like to offer some observations concerning a few developing countries, starting with Brazil. In the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo, I am told that one percent of tax revenues go directly into science. Like Filipinos, the Brazilians do not have a perfect system. They have their share of power-hungry and/or incompetent bureaucrats, unpublished scientist-administrators, destructive professional jealousies or rivalries among scientists, and instances of outright corruption. As a society, they are also recovering from years of political dictatorship and face social problems such as poverty, crime and lack of education. One can walk on a downtown street in Sao Paulo and imagine being in Europe, turn a corner and find oneself again in the Third World amid garbage, beggars, potential robbers, and kidnap rings. But, democracy is at work in Brazil. They have a populist president who is committed to change (and, by the way, has a good relationship with Washington arch-enemy Hugo Chavez). Despite their problems, they have a system enlightened enough to use tax money to properly equip laboratories, adequately fund research projects, finance attendance at scientific meetings abroad, send their young scientists for research training (for example, to my laboratory in California), fly foreign scientists (like me) to the University of Sao Paulo to give lectures. As an editor of a leading international scientific journal, I get to oversee the rigorous peer-review process that manuscripts from my Brazilian friends are subjected to. Clearly, Brazilians can do world-class science, and they do it in Brazil. It is not so surprising when I go from my place of work in Santa Barbara to Los Angeles (on my way to visit loved ones in Canada), that I often fly in a plane called the Brasilia, designed and manufactured in Brazil, or that my former car was a Brazilian Volkswagen. An anecdote worth including involves a Brazilian student who spent a year in my laboratory: he says he was once reported to the police when he arrived at a small Brazilian town to catch hummingbirds for research. His permit had been approved but was not in his possession, so they threw him in jail. Even my ex-convict visiting student thought this was an admirable demonstration of Brazilian environmental consciousness.

I am writing this article in Colima, Mexico, where my graduate student and I are conducting research in collaboration with a Mexican scientist and two of his students. My collaborator says two-thirds of his salary is based on his productivity — if he did not publish scientific papers, his salary would be one-third of what he currently receives. On two occasions, I conducted research at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institution’s station on Barro Colorado Island, in the Panama Canal. There, we got to know scientists and students from various Central and South American countries who were conducting research alongside Americans, Canadians, Australians and Europeans of various nationalities. The Hispanic scientists had international reputations, were well published in peer-reviewed journals, and were excellent role models for their students. I also had a visiting Chilean student in my California laboratory who got her own grant from the Chilean government and brought samples to my laboratory for biochemical analysis. While she was washing cuvettes (sort of a rectangular test-tube that fits in an instrument called a spectrophotometer) in the laboratory, I asked her what the word for cuvette was in Spanish. She said cubeta. Lavandera de cubetas is now a Ph.D. student funded by the Fulbright Foundation at the University of California at Berkeley. Her home department at the Universidad Catolica, in Santiago, Chile, is staffed by a number of internationally recognized scientists (I know two of them personally) who are great role models to their students, assets to their country, and active contributors — through their peer-reviewed publications in international journals — to the advancement of scientific knowledge.

It is interesting to think of how many of these countries were also former colonies of European countries and that they are subject to the same (or at least very similar) influences as those seen in the Philippines, i.e., former dictatorships, anti-communism used to justify oppression, government corruption, inequities between the rich and poor, Spanish or Portuguese and Church influences on culture and way of life, history of covert or overt US meddling in national affairs. They should have as many excuses as anyone or any country for having a completely dysfunctional scientific system. Avoiding the road to dysfunction
In my youth in the 1950s and early 1960s, the Philippines was full of talent, nationalism, and promise; in many ways, it somehow still "worked" as a country and its progress seemed unstoppable. It is very common for Filipinos my age and older to lament the fact that then, the Philippines was ahead of many developing countries but now has been overtaken by them. I promised not to be critical. But we are in the 21st century, and the dearth of peer-reviewed articles originating from the Philippines leads me to fear that the country of my birth may be on the road heading toward complete dysfunction. It may be considered improper for an outsider to offer unsolicited "advice" to a scientific community not lacking in intelligence, expertise or nationalism. Despite the current sad state of Philippine science, within this community are "flowers in bloom in the grassy field." As we all learned in grade school, these need sunshine, fresh air, clean water and good soil. We learned from Rizal’s life that it should not be considered a bad thing to write of darkness, foul air, and dirty water. Filipinos shot the messenger in 1896, and his message was censored for decades afterwards by the Church and banned in some of the best universities in the country. It is in this light that I view negative reactions to objective analyses of the state of Philippine science. How sadly counter-productive! How contrary such reactions are to the interests of the Filipino people! But for every Filipino in Rizal’s firing squad in 1896, there were thousands of others who joined the revolution. Today, for every person who does not want to read or hear of dysfunction in Philippine science, there are many more who realize that it is time for change. May the flowers bloom. * * *
Dr. Raul Kamantigue Suarez is a professor at the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology of the University of California, Santa Barbara, California 93106-9610, USA, and editor of the Journal of Experimental Biology, Cambridge, UK. E-mail him at suarez@lifesci.ucsb.edu
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2007 2:08 pm    Post subject: On scientific publications Reply with quote

On scientific publications
STAR SCIENCE By Eduardo A. Padlan, Ph.D.
Thursday, June 7, 2007

I collect cartoons. There is one by Nick Downes that I clipped a few years ago that shows a professor being told (as a thug is getting ready to shoot him): “Surely you were aware when you accepted the position, Professor, that it was publish or perish.” You see, “publish or perish” is used in academic circles to mean that if you do not publish (papers) you do not get tenure or you do not get promoted; in other words, you do not get recognition. These days, the number and quality of one’s publications are taken as a measure of one’s productivity, of one’s worth. It even matters in which journals one publishes. There is an insistence, for example, that publications be “peer-reviewed,” i.e., judged worthy of publication by others in the field; non-”peer-reviewed” publications do not count as much. In the Philippines, it is a big plus to publish in international journals. In fact, some institutions even give monetary rewards for publishing in international journals. (In marked contrast, the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) Philippines, bless its collective soul, yearly gives awards to outstanding scientific papers published in local journals.)

Not all scientific results are of international interest. For example, the association of gastrointestinal disorders with the amount of rainfall (probably a fictitious association) in the town of Puling (a fictitious town) in the province of Bugat (a fictitious province) in the Philippines, would be of little interest to the rest of the world and will most probably not be accepted for publication in an international journal. However, that finding would be of great interest to the inhabitants of Puling and other towns in the Philippines and will almost surely be a feature article in the Puling Bugat Journal of Science (a fictitious journal). How do we decide what is a worthy publication and what is not?

(One publication is often cited as one that has made a tremendous impact on the lives of billions and that has been reprinted and quoted innumerable times, but which was never “peer-reviewed” nor published in an international journal — the Bible.)

Scientists publish their experiments and experiences for a purpose, although that purpose has changed over the years. Originally, scientists published their data, the analysis of those data, and their theories based on their results, so as to share with their colleagues (the other scientists in the world) the knowledge that they had gained from their experiments. Like other endeavors, science builds on previous work — the more work had been done and the more findings are made available to the public, the easier it would be for others in the field to know which new path to take, what else needs to be done, what mistakes to avoid, etc. Further, if we knew what others are doing, we would not waste our time and resources by duplicating their work. Collaborations may even get started by the sharing of ideas and experiences. The sharing of knowledge is not only through publications. Results and hypotheses are often shared during personal visits to other labs, at meetings, through letters, even in phone conversations. It is all in the spirit of sharing — of cooperation.

That was the norm when I started doing science in the mid-1960s, although I soon learned that not everyone played fair — there was some competition and results were kept secret. But by and large, sharing was the prevailing attitude.

It is very different now. With the start of biotech companies in the mid-1980s, secrecy became more and more prevalent. You cannot blame the companies. They exist for corporate profits. How could they possibly compete if they disclose their trade secrets?

(There was a meeting held in the late 1980s in which a representative from a biotech company discussed at length their results on a molecule they were working on, but would not name the molecule! The moderator, a scientist of the old school, led the audience in a round of hissing. That was how the scientist community felt about secrecy at the time. That has changed. Nowadays, many (most?) scientists keep their findings secret until their commercial value has been assessed and secured (through patents). Scientists have gone corporate! As Howard Schachman wrote in a recent article, scientists nowadays have a new creed: “patent and prosper.”

More and more, the spirit of sharing, of cooperation, is being replaced by competition. Even “peer review” of publications sometimes suffers. Remember that your “peers,” those who would be passing judgment on your papers, are the other scientists in your field, i.e., your competitors! So, one hears stories of papers whose publication had been “hindered.” And, of course, your competitors get to find out from your manuscripts what you are up to and what your latest findings are. One can only hope that those instances are rare.

Personally, I prefer a system in which all papers are published. Science is self-correcting. If you keep publishing results that are wrong or experiments that were sloppily done, people will stop paying attention to your work. And there are few things worse that could happen to a scientist, or to anyone for that matter, than to be ignored by one’s peers. All self-respecting scientists will publish only “good” papers.

In my opinion, every scientific experience should be made known to everyone, including — and especially — experiments that went wrong or that were extremely difficult to perform (but not sloppy work). We learn from our mistakes; we can learn from the mistakes of others, too.

In a dissenting opinion, Dr. Giselle Concepcion, who read an early version of this article, points out that there still has to be some form of review. “While expert scientists can discern what is good or bad science, that may not be true of students. Bad science could be damaging to our youth,” she correctly states. “Self-correcting science, learning from one’s or others’ mistakes, like natural selection and evolution, will be wasteful and will take too much time,” she adds. I guess I have to agree. But I still think that every scientific experiment, data, interpretation, theory, hypothesis, etc., provided it is not fraudulent or incompetently done, should be made available to others.

Every piece of knowledge is important. There is a university in the US whose library plans to get a copy of every written piece of work in history. There is a church denomination that is currently compiling the genealogy of every man and woman on Earth. There is a continuing effort to catalog every plant and animal species in the world. On the occasion of his 250th birthday, musicians in his native Austria played every note that Mozart had ever written. The key word in all of these efforts is “every.” And these are almost surely not the only endeavors in which every bit of data on a given subject is being collected. I am certain that soon every scientific paper, even the ones published in the Puling Bugat Journal of Science, will be accessible through the Internet.

When that happens, the original purpose of publishing scientific findings will be achieved. When that happens, there will be no distinction between an international publication and a local one. But until then, here in our country, a measure of a scientist’s worth, his productivity, is the number of his (or her) international publications.

To be productive in science, one has to be creative. But being creative is often not enough. One may be very creative, but he (or she) would have a hard time producing publishable results if he (or she) is saddled with loads of teaching and administrative responsibilities — a situation in which most scientists in the Philippines find themselves. Further, it would be difficult to produce if one does not have the funds, the equipment and other necessities to do the work.

Clearly, most scientists in the Philippines are at a great disadvantage. We are not lacking in creativity, but we usually do not have the resources to accomplish what we are capable of doing. We may have ideas that are of international importance and which can compare with those of the best scientists in the world (just look at how well many Filipinos abroad are faring), but we here (with some notable exceptions) simply cannot work on those ideas and compete with the rest of the world because of lack of resources. But there are lots of important problems — local problems — for which we do not have to compete with the rest of the world. And we can publish our results in local journals. Those of us who work on local problems are doing the country a lot of good. Of course, we do not get much recognition from those who insist that we publish in international journals.

Maybe we can make our local journals internationally “visible” and thus be included in international indices (the sign of international recognition). That may not be too difficult to achieve. If we could convince our more productive local scientists and our compatriots abroad, who are able to produce internationally competitive results, to publish seminal papers or review papers in local journals and afterwards cite those (local) papers in their other (international) publications, then the international community will become aware of our local science and our local journals.

Let’s do it!

* * *

Eduardo A. Padlan has a Ph.D. in Biophysics and was a research scientist at the (US) National Institutes of Health until his retirement in 2000. He is currently an adjunct professor in the Marine Science Institute, College of Science, University of the Philippines Diliman. He is a corresponding member of NAST. He can be reached at edpadlan@aol.com.
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2007 8:52 am    Post subject: Bad Science Reply with quote

Ben Goldacre, M.D.

Every Bad Science column published since 2003 is archived here, and the new ones get posted every week, along with anything else I write. It’s searchable and you can make comments.

http://www.badscience.net/
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2007 2:11 pm    Post subject: Isis -- Open-access focus section about Science and Law Reply with quote

University of Chicago Press Journals
12 July 2007

Isis -- Open-access focus section about Science and Law

In the June 2007 issue of Isis, a collection of papers draws together scholarship about the intersections of science and law, exploring what happens when science enters the courtroom or the course of scientific inquiry is determined by legal outcomes. “Focus: Science and Law” is freely available to all visitors to the Chicago Journals Web site: www.journals.uchicago.edu/Isis

“Evolving legal systems have consistently been forced to draw on (or defensibly away from) scientific knowledge, scientific methods, and scientific experts in the pursuit of truth and justice,” writes D. Graham Burnett (Princeton University) in his introduction to the Isis collection. “At the same time, courts . . . have to a significant extent shaped both the theories and the practices of knowledge production central to the emergence of modern science.”

Daniel Kevles (Yale University) contributes an essay on the history of intellectual property legislation regarding living creatures. In another piece, Allison Winter (University of Chicago) examines attempts, over the past century, to use science to improve the veracity of witness testimony.

As Burnett writes: “From intellectual property to midwifery, the neoliberal world order to sleepwalking, these essays tease out some of the complicated ways that scientific expertise has been deployed in the formal contests of social regulation and punishment.”

He continues, “The increasingly sophisticated commercialization of research science and the transformation of systems of credit and funding have meant that the courts have played more and more complex roles in scientific life: scientific fraud, priority disputes, the regulation of research on ethical and political grounds—all of these topics too offer important problems for the historian of science.”

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FOCUS: SCIENCE AND LAW

D. Graham Burnett “Introduction: Cross Examination"”

Silvia De Renzi “Medical Expertise, Bodies, and the Law in Early Modern Courts”

Daniel J. Kevles “Patents, Protections, and Privileges: The Establishment of Intellectual Property in Animals and Plants”

Alison Winter “A Forensics of the Mind”

Sheila Jasanoff “Bhopal’s Trials of Knowledge and Ignorance”
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 21, 2007 10:23 am    Post subject: Math as a Civil Right Reply with quote

Week of July 21, 2007; Vol. 172, No. 3

Math as a Civil Right
Voting rights advocate calls for mathematics literacy
Julie J. Rehmeyer

Mathematics literacy is a new civil rights battleground, according to the renowned activist and political organizer Robert Parris Moses. Using the same ideas and methods that he once used to fight for voting rights in the South, Moses is working to increase access to quality mathematics education through the Algebra Project, a nationwide program that he founded.

For the full article:

http://sciencenews.org/article.....thtrek.asp
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 30, 2007 2:29 pm    Post subject: Well-intended research in the wrong hands can become a weapo Reply with quote

Well-intended research in the wrong hands can become a weapon of terror
30 July 2007

Chemical & Engineering News

In a post 9-11 world where laboratory-made viruses and other legitimate scientific discoveries could become terrorists’ weapons, scientists are stepping-up efforts to help ensure that well-intended research is not used for sinister purposes, according to an article (http://pubs.acs.org/cen/science/85/8531sci1.html) scheduled for the July 30 issue of Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.

C&EN managing editor Ivan Amato wrote the compelling feature after interviews with scientists from academia, government, and industry who are working to address growing concerns about misuse of legitimate scientific research. “Chemists have not worried enough about the consequences of the molecules that they make,” states Roald Hoffmann, who shared the 1981 Nobel Prize for Chemistry. Hoffmann has chosen to address this issue in an usual way—theater. His new play, Should’ve, focuses on the moral and political fallout from a synthetic toxin that falls into the hands of terrorists. Hoffmann calls on scientists to “confront the reality that well-intentioned research that holds promise to cure disease, clean water and otherwise improve the conditions of life also can be commandeered for sinister purposes.”

Other experts in the article discuss the possibility of using oversight boards to monitor research on potentially dangerous research projects; introducing ethical discussions into the classroom to sensitize undergraduate and graduate students to the possible misuse of scientific research, even their own; and the need for scientists to adapt a new, more vigilant and intentional way of thinking about the implications of their research.

Article #5 EMBARGOED FOR 9 A.M., EASTERN TIME, July 30, 2007
“Experiments of Concern: Well-intentioned research, in the wrong hands, can become dangerous.”

This story will be available on July 30 at
http://pubs.acs.org/cen/science/85/8531sci1.html
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 24, 2007 1:32 pm    Post subject: Measures of scientific excellence Reply with quote

Measures of scientific excellence

STAR SCIENCE By Caesar Saloma

Thursday, August 23, 2007

There is a constant need to develop more reliable measures of scientific excellence. Such measures are essential so that civil society in general and the science community in particular are able to recognize and celebrate scientific excellence when there is one. Without a suitable evaluation tool, excellence is likely to get trivialized to the detriment of the real scientific talents whose contributions are so valuable in a meritocratic society. Trivialization is fatal particularly in a community where scientific tradition is not (yet) deeply rooted in the minds of the general public. It creates an army of cynics and despondent researchers who do not see any bright future for science, and a legion of apologists who are adept at rationalizing mediocrity or at finding unfortunate scapegoats or both.

Science aims to improve our understanding of the physical, biological, and social world. Scientists generate new knowledge that enables us to formulate a more accurate and precise description of a physical phenomenon. In many instances, new scientific knowledge gives birth to technological innovations such as wireless technology and fuel-efficient vehicles that directly affect economic prosperity and the quality of life. But even without any foreseeable economic benefit, new knowledge remains invaluable because it allows us to develop a deeper and fairer appreciation of the significance of our existence in this vast space-time manifold that we call the Universe.

An important milestone in the career of a young scientist is the publication of his or her first paper in a peer-reviewed journal that is indexed by the Thomson Scientific/Institute of Scientific Information (ISI). For a Ph.D. student, the acceptance of a technical paper signals the beginning of an end of many years of formal matriculated training that began when he or she could still barely skip the rope. A Ph.D. degree is a research degree that is awarded to a student who has been able to contribute something novel and significant to the body of scientific knowledge. It is not granted for publishing a feel-good or scathing piece in a popular daily newspaper. In modern science, credit for a discovery or invention goes to the person who first published his findings in a peer-reviewed journal or gazette.

To be considered brilliant by his peers, a scientist does not need to publish dozens of ISI papers during his years of productive service. Scientific brilliance is not gauged by a long publication list which is a product more of industry rather than genuine ability. The Nobel Prize, considered by many to be the most prestigious in the sciences, is given in recognition of singular achievements in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine. It is not a lifetime achievement award.

Scientists long to publish in high-impact journals such as Nature and Science. Getting published in these journals, however, is easier said than done because the competition for page space is quite high. Their editors accept only contributions that are of high general interest, and are likely to treat more kindly those coming from authors in established laboratories or those with an outstanding academic pedigree. They have nothing to lose by being extra cautious and conservative in their acceptance criteria.

Scientists want to publish in high-impact journals which improve the chances of their work getting noticed and cited by others quickly and widely. With a high citation frequency goes a well-deserved recognition by peers and more importantly, of the award-giving bodies. The reputation of a journal may be estimated from its corresponding citation impact. A well-known metric is the journal impact factor that yields the average number of times that papers in a journal are cited up to two years after publication. It is calculated based on a three-year period. For example, the impact factor of Science in 2005 was 30.927 implying that articles published in 2003-2004 got an average of 30.927 citations by 2005. The main criticism with the use of the impact factor to measure the quality of a particular paper is the finding that only a few highly cited articles actually determine the impact factor value. For example, it was discovered that for theoretical papers that appeared in high-energy physics journals, the top 4.3 percent produced 50 percent of all citations while the bottom 50 percent accounted for a measly 2.1 percent [S. Lehmann & A. Jackson, Nature 444, p. 1003 (2006)].

The Hirsch index was subsequently introduced in an attempt to find a more reasonable balance between scientific productivity (number of publications) and quality (number of citations per publication) [J. Hirsch, Proc. Nat’l Acad. Sci. USA 102, 16569 (2005)]. A scientist with a Hirsch index h means that h of his total papers N have at least h citations each and his other (N – h) papers have at most, h citations each. The index makes sense only when employed to compare scientists who are working in the same field. According to Wikipedia, a moderately productive physicist should have an h that is equal to his years of professional service. Researchers in the biomedical field are expected to score higher.

While the Hirsch index is better at apportioning the relative importance of productivity and quality, it is still unable to correct the excessive influence of a review article (in the Chemical Review or Reviews of Modern Physics for example) over those that report new research findings. It also puts scientists with short careers at a relative disadvantage. In December 2006, Lehmann and Jackson proposed the mean citation h/N as a more accurate descriptor of the productivity of an author. However, they have cautioned that the utilization of h/N is effective only if N is greater than fifty.

Existing procedures for evaluating scientific productivity in our country still neglect the importance of citation frequency. This remains the case even with the University of the Philippines, arguably the most experienced among our universities on the matter of faculty merit promotion. The exclusion of citation impact continues since the productivity of Filipino scientists has remained minuscule in terms of publications in any ISI-indexed journal regardless of journal impact factor. It also arises from our lack of access to accurate and updated information regarding the citations of individual ISI papers. On a positive note, the service that is provided by Google Scholar (scholar.google.com) is a giant step toward addressing our lack of access. The state of underperformance (and underachievement) is likely to persist in the foreseeable future due to the anemic growth of the size of the scientific community. According to the Commission on Higher Education, less than one out of 10 faculty members in our universities and colleges had a Ph.D. degree in the school year 2004-2005.

We should not wait for our local science community to reach a nebulous critical mass before including the citation frequency factor in assessing the productivity of our scientists. Inclusion will make our evaluation instrument conform to world-class standards. It will also allow our recognition-giving bodies to identify correctly the few oases of excellence that were able to develop and thrive despite the unfavorable socio-economic conditions. Doing scientific research in the Philippines is like wading through muddy waters — one small step takes so much energy.

A Filipino scientist who is able to publish in a high-impact journal such as Nature (2005 impact factor: 29.273) or Science based on a research work that is entirely done using local resources and without a senior co-author from abroad, is truly worth celebrating. It is like winning the much coveted Olympic gold medal. No one has done it yet.

The professional life of a scientist is filled with mountains of different climbing grades. At the end of the day, what really matters most are not the peaks that were already scaled but those lofty ones that are yet to be conquered. A correct appreciation of genuine scientific excellence allows us (and our employers and funding agencies) to decide more rationally which among remaining challenges are worthy of our immediate undivided attention. Awareness is the important first step to enlightenment.
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