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Doomsday Clock* 1970

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in September 1970 published an article about the brain drain in the Philippines by Amador Muriel[1].  40 years after its publication, the reasons for leaving outlined in the paper are still the same – poor pay, absence of professional opportunities, old-fashioned bureaucratic, and dissatisfaction with the government.

The article is also a good source of the history of the National Institute of Physics (NIP) then the Department of Physics in the 1950-60’s.  I am grateful to the best oral historian and master googler of  NIP.  I don’t think he wants to be named.

Here are some interesting quotes from the article:

1. In 1958, there was not a single PhD Physicist  in the University of the Philippines. (Now there are 25 based on their website.)

2.  Paul Kirkpatrick helped to stimulate a vigorous desire to improve physics teaching.  (Kirkpatrick, a pioneer in the use of X-rays for scientific purposes and the earliest practitioner of holograms; 1958 Oersted Medalin recognition of his notable contributions to the teaching ofphysics.)

3.  Pure physics research is nothing more than a luxury, at best a minor aspect of a complete educational process in a country so underdeveloped. (Muriel was proposing that the country needs applied physicists. During that time, there was none.  Today, there are more applied physicists than theoreticians.  However, I believe that there should be a balance.)

4.  Most professional opportunities for physicists in the Philippines are unattractive, demanding long hours of teaching or vows of poverty. (Until now, it is difficult for a physicist to find work outside the academe.  There was a time however that there are companies in the country that need physicists.)

5.  As of typical of most underdeveloped countries, grandeur is given priority over need. (Muriel was commenting about the plans of the government to put up an atomic research center.  He said the money for training people and building the facility with equipments, are better used elsewhere like surveying the seas of the country to help the fishing industry. I think he was referring to the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (egg-shell domed building) at Diliman.)

6.  Another mistake  the government made was to create positions and immediately fill them without waiting for those who were properly trained. (At NIP, it is becoming more difficult to get a position not only because the positions are already filled but mainly because of its stringent  criteria for tenure.  This is not the case outside NIP though where your tenure is based on the whim of your chair or dean…hahaha, this is me ranting!)

7.  As in all other professions, the chief motive for emigration is poor working conditions bred by government apathy and corruption. (So true even today. Do I need to say more?)

Muriel during this time was a research associate of the Institute of Space Studies (a division of NASA).

Read the full article here.

[1] A. Muriel, Brain Drain in the Philippines: A Case Study, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 26 (1970) 38-39.

From the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, known for its Doomsday clock has this on its about us” page:

*The Doomsday Clock was created in 1947 as way to convey both the imagery of apocalypse (midnight) and the contemporary idiom of nuclear explosion (countdown to zero).  The Clock has become a universally recognized indicator of the world’s vulnerability to catastrophe from nuclear weapons, climate change, and emerging technologies in the life.


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