Charles Darwin in the Philippines

I spent Christmas and New Year in the Philippines. It was lovely to be somewhere warm and lovely to enjoy being somewhere quite different, but also strangely familiar. Relics from their colonial history (first Spain and then USA) makes the Philippines less of a culture shock than many other countries in southeast Asia.
I attended a midnight mass on Christmas eve, in a church in Peace Village, a suburb of Antipolo City. The service was entirely in Tagalog which meant the sermon was mostly incomprehensible except for one sentence in English that took me by surprise: Man is the highest animal, but still an animal. I didn’t understand the next sentence except for the name Charles Darwin.
It’s good to know that, in a small suburban chapel in the Philippines, the work of Charles Darwin can be celebrated at one of the busiest church services of the year.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised. The Philippines is very proud of its education system, modelled on that of the USA, and boasts the oldest University in Asia (University of Santo Tomas ). Though the country is not known for science, they can lay claim to being the source of erythromycin and are also host to IRRI, the International Rice Research Institute . They have also recently announced plans to reinvigorate the science base.
Later in my holiday I paid a visit to the library unit at the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD) and learnt more about the structure of research in the Philippines. PCHRD is one of the Philippine research councils – currently there are five but they are being reorganised into just three: Health; Energy and emerging technology; Agriculture, environment and oceans. All three are part of DOST – the Dept of Science & Technology – which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary.
PCHRD itself is just 25 years old. It puts great emphasis on nurturing a culture of research across the country and has a strong regional agenda. They fund research projects – focusing on applied research related to national needs e.g. medicinal chemistry and phytopharmaceuticals. They do not have any intramural research institutes, though there is the National Institutes of Health , based in the University of the Philippines, Manila.
I was interested to learn about local publishing practices. There are about 180 locally published health journals (many non-peer reviewed) but only about 30 of them publish regularly. The proliferation of local journals is recognised as a problem and so more support is being given to the more regular journals. Another problem is that not all researchers are accustomed to publishing, preferring to prepare unpublished reports. DOST is trying to change this situation, but it will take time and, I expect, money. I didn’t have the time to really look into the financial aspects of being a researcher in the Philippines but I would hazard a guess that funding is hard to come by and there is little incentive to put in the effort to craft a well-honed manuscript for publication.
It will be interesting to see whether the efforts to boost science and technology in the Philippines will pay off, and what effect they have on publication practices.

About Frank Norman

I am a librarian in a biomedical research institute. I've been around a few years, long enough to know that exciting new things fall into the same familiar patterns. I'm interested in navigating a path for libraries as we move further from print to electronic resources to open research, and become more embedded in research workflows.
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