To streamline all research and development (R&D) efforts in the country, the Office of the President, through the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), convened more than 200 R&D experts from private sectors, science and engineering organizations, and various government departments and agencies in an experts opinion forum held October 5, 2010 at the Philippine International Convention Center, Pasay City.
Dubbed the “National R&D Priorities Delphi Assembly,” the forum was participated in by experts from the Departments of Science and Technology; Agriculture; Energy, Environment and Natural Resources; Health; National Defense; Education; Trade and Industry; and Foreign Affairs, all members of the Presidential Coordinating Council for Research and Development (PCCRD).
During the assembly, Department of Science and Technology Secretary Mario G. Montejo explained that the main aim of the forum is to “harmonize all R&D efforts of various government and agencies and come up with a guide for the proper use of R&D funds.”
Unofficial tally of experts’ responses showed that the government R&D activities, from 2010 to 2016, focused and concentrated on the following areas: agriculture and food (development of food and non-food crop varieties for high yield, quality, nutritional value, and adaptability to unfavorable environments and resistance to pests); environment and natural resources (forest production, utilization and protection); disaster mitigation and management (disaster-resilient system and infrastructures);
Energy (renewable energy technologies; and energy efficiency, conservation, and management); Health (confirmatory diagnostic tests for infectious/tropical diseases (dengue, influenza, MDR-TB) and lifestyle related diseases [cancer]; and point of care technologies for infectious/ tropical diseases [dengue, malaria, tuberculosis and influenza] and lifestyle related diseases [cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer];
Manufacturing and production (new materials production using indigenous and other local materials); enabling technologies (ubiquitous/pervasive computing [hardware, network]; and ICT for development [ICT applications for different sectors] and citizen participation decision making);
Biotechnology (conventional biotechnology involving tissue culture, fermentation technology and enzyme technology; recombinant DNA on technology/proteomics including mutation breeding and marker-assisted breeding, waste management, drugs, vaccines, and diagnostic kits); nanotechnology (nanosensors and actuators; nanomaterials and nanocomposites; nanoporous filters); and electronics (semiconductors and components).
A technique for gathering data, the Delphi group approach generates ideas and facilitates consensus among carefully-selected individuals who have special knowledge to share, particularly in analyzing a specific problem. Delphi is often used in national science and technology forecasting. It enables the country’s science and research experts to come up with scientific basis for good government decision-making and administration. This method gathers experts’ ideas in two or more rounds, with the second round validating the results of the first round.
The need to harmonize R&D efforts
By harmonizing all R&D efforts in the country, the government avoids research duplication, overlapping, and wastage of funds, while saving time and harnessing more creative talents for other R&D projects that could bring about maximum socio-economic advantages for the Filipino people. Harmonized programs ensure proper use of public funds to address societal problems, particularly those that directly affect the people like urban congestion, poverty, food shortages, disasters, and disease infections. Moreover, the business sector would realize the usefulness of the government R&D activities to their respective industries, DOST Secretary Montejo added.
To set the National R&D Priorities Plan 2010 – 2016 (NRDPP) is the first attempt of the national government to bring together the R&D activities of the government departments, agencies, and the academe, particularly SUCs. Likewise, NRDPP aims to strongly link the government R&D institutions, non-government research/science organizations, and the business sector. Setting up this five year plan for the country’s R&D priorities poses a challenge for the DOST, according to DOST Undersecretary for S&T Services Fortunato T. de la Peña. This is because DOST, anchoring on the global Millennium Development Goals, identified through its experts some 83 areas of concern for both the Socio-Economic and the Enabling Technologies Sectors.
Filipino researchers, scientists, and technologists in nation building
DOST commissioned the National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP) to assess and rank the R&D priorities in the socio-economic and enabling sectors to formulate the five-year research priorities plan.
NRCP experts, led by current NRCP Vice President Roland V. Sarmago, former NRCP President Dr. Olivia C. Caoili, former NRCP Chairperson for Earth and Space Sciences Carina G. Lao, and former NRCP Chairperson for Governmental, Educational, and International Policies Soccorro M. Rodriguez, spearheaded the said evaluation.
“The national government now believes that Filipino researchers, scientists, and technologists could significantly contribute in nation building,” Dr. Rodriguez said. “The fact is, our government recognized that R&D projects help in the generation of new knowledge and improve existing knowledge needed by the socio-economic sectors for the creation of new products, services, processes as well as provide solution to problems and challenges faced by the country today and in the future.”
As a response to these concerns, she said that her team decided to use the Delphi survey on the identified R&D priorities.
Using the Delphi method, spontaneous responses of more two hundred invited R&D experts to each of the 83 identified R&D priority concerns were ranked using Wireless Automated Response System and PCOS machine, Dr. Rodriguez explained.
Dr. Alvin B. Culaba, past President of the Philippine-American Academy of Science and Engineering and the current President of the NRCP, said that these R&D projects, if and when implemented and completed, could help the Philippine government produce technologies that would have beneficial impact to the economy and society. The technologies would enhance and alleviate the lives of the entire Filipino populace, putting the country at par with the others in Asia and the rest of the world.
This Delphi assembly is sanctioned by Executive Order 604 that created the PCCRD specially tasked to supervise research and development projects of government agencies. PCCRD coordinates and harmonizes all research projects in government to save time and money.