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March this year marks the 30th anniversary of the signing of EXECUTIVE ORDER (EO) NO. 889 by Pres. Ferdinand Marcos.  For those not familiar, this EO aims to “establish a system of national centers of excellence in the basic sciences” in the country [1].

The first institutes that were created from this EO are the National Institute of Physics (NIP), the National Institute of Geological Sciences (NIGS), and the Natural Science Research Institute (NSRI) at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman and the Institute of Mathematical Sciences (IMS, now the Institute of Mathematical Sciences and Physics, IMSP), the Institute of Chemistry (IC), and the Institute of Biological Sciences (IBS) at the UP’s Los Baños campus.

Initially, each institute received 3M pesos as lumpsum appropriation except for the NSRI which received 5M pesos. In 1983, the exchange rate is more or less 9 pesos to a dollar [2].

These institutes were also “exempted from government limitations in the purchase of scientific and research-related equipment and attendance abroad of appropriate personnel to scientific and technological meetings and conferences upon certification by the Director-General of the National Science and Technology Authority (now DOST).” I wonder if this is still the case.

30 years hence, what are the most exciting research that these institutes have produced?

In this series of blog posts, I will be listing 30 notable research articles from 3 of these 6 institutes. Why only 3? Well, I could not track research articles from the institutes housed at UP Los Baños. They don’t appear on ISI Web of Knowledge.

What is my criteria? Nothing. This is solely based on my own judgement. Perhaps I will factor the number of citations per year. But my decisions will be based more on the over-all “coolness” of the title and the abstract, and the “awesomeness” of the body of the paper. I’ll try to defend by choice. However, if you do not agree with me, then make your own list!

This is a herculean task, mind you. To be able to get only 30 from 403 research articles from 1983 to 2013 would be difficult.  Of course these 403 articles are already filtered such that all articles come solely from the Philippines or are homegrown. This explains the low number of articles published. All papers with collaboration from outside the Philippines are excluded.

Of the 403 articles I will be reviewing (yeah, reviewing), 270 come from the NIP, 73 are from the NSRI, and 60 are from the NIGS. The breadth of topics is as wide as the pacific ocean (probably as deep also) –  from two-photon fluorescence imaging to mineralization potentials of Philippine ophiolite, from a bounded, self-adjoint time operator to Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, from crustal thickening to genotyping. Yeah, goodluck to me.

But more than my ‘fancy’ list, I guess the more important question is how these institutes evolve. What was happening in the Philippines and in the world when these papers were published? What are the “hot topics” in science then? Who are the significant Filipino scientists during those times? I will try to ask a few friends to help me out.

Interestingly, by plotting the publications in years, one could see distinct jumps. What could have caused these? Was there policy changes that could be tied to these?

3 phases are seen when the number of publications is plotted in years for the 3 institutes.

3 phases are seen when the number of publications is plotted in years for the 3 institutes.

This series will be divided by dates. I’ll start with 1983 to 1993, the first ten years of the institutes. The first years would be relatively easy since there are only a few papers from back then. I still wouldn’t know what to write after that. Stay tuned.

This is my first attempt of narrating Philippine science history from the perspective of published research.

Crossed fingers.


[1] http://www.lawphil.net/executive/execord/eo1983/eo_889_1983.html
[2] http://intl.econ.cuhk.edu.hk/exchange_rate_regime/index.php?cid=1

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