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Seeing ang hearing.

We seldom see mainstream media report science and if they do, it is usually side lined.  So I’d like to start a weekly (?) science round up of news or views that had caught my rather short attention span. Be warned most of my comments are rants.

This week it is quite easy. A major broadsheet and two of the largest tv networks carried some sort of science news and views.  These are:

Inqurier asks what’s the value of science

This editorial (click here) has little scientific value. The article has no point.  Ah, I get it! It has multiple points. That’s why I didn’t get the message. The article instead of focusing on the merits of investing on science, made a little detour on the 1) ways to make science learning more enjoyable; 2) the dismal number of science laboratories in public high schools; 3) on the increased budget of the education sector; 4) on the K-12 education change; and 5) on the diaspora of science and technology trained professionals. So where’s the value of science there? I don’t know.

An example of a good op-ed piece on the MONETARY value of science is an editorial in Nature Photonics (click here) which appeared today. It says that for a 47 billion Euro investment a year, the EU27 got 3.4 trillion Euros a year in return in Physics alone. That’s like a 1 peso investment will earn 100 pesos after a year! (Is my math correct? It seems to make no sense.)

But of course, it’s just not about the money. We could go on and on and on on the real value of science.

My point is that the editorial in the Inquirer could have done much much better. Like make an op-ed about the low Research and Development to GDP expenditure of the government,  a measly 0.09% and how it is stifling growth.

If they want to talk about ways to make science learning more enjoyable, shouldn’t they make a feature article instead?

And by the way, visit the article if only for the comments. Really, Teddy Locsin Jr? “…for engineering degree only, just engineering, wag na math, physics, degrees, those can be loopholes;” Loopholes? ¿Cómo?

Jessica Sanchez 2.0 but better

Michael L. Tan in his column Sense and Science talked about a Fil-American who was in TIME’s 100 most influencial because her team “cured” a baby with HIV. (click here.)

I call Dr. Katherine Luzuriaga as Jessica Sanchez 2.0 but better because she speaks Filipino!

Enough of the joke. Honestly speaking, the value of her work should have made headlines everywhere regardless of her ethnicity, and it did by the way at least outside of the Philippines. Imagine that there are only two “cured” HIV patients in the whole world and you’re part of the team that made one possible. That is amazing.

But I was a bit disappointed with how Michael L. Tan approached the article. Three things:

1)  Yes, she has a Filipino blood but she is not from the Philippines. So this sentence, “And yet, despite the groundbreaking impact of her work, she remains largely unacknowledged in her own country,” does not work. She is acknowledged in her country, the USA.

2) And while I agree that there is a gender inequality in science, there is no need to highlight that they are women scientists as “Even more importantly…” What do you mean “even more importantly”?

3) She is not Jessica Sanchez. Go figure.

The value of this article for the Philippines, I believe, is that given the right training and stimulus, Filipinos can also be good in science.  This could have been a better editorial topic for science in the Inquirer.

Which brings me to another Filipina scientist.

Rapid Tubbataha reef assesment

Dr. Maricor Soriano was a guest in ANC’s Headstart with TJ Manotoc. He is sitting in for Karen Davila. They talked about the scientists’ assessment of Tubbataha’s reef in light of the grounding of the Guardian and of a Chinese fishing vessel.

I was lucky to watch the complete interview.  I have to give props to Dr. Soriano for deflecting some questions she has no competence in answering. If I have to give advice to scientists when being interviewed by media is that do not talk about things that you don’t have the capability to answer. In short, do not BS. BS-ing is one way to ruin your hard earned reputation. And besides, it will not look good on video. (Most) Good scientists are bad liars, you know. 

As for TJ Manotoc, why do you have to ask questions that were deflected already? Scientists are not Ernie Barons or Kuya Kims.

I was also waiting for him to ask how the scientists made the assessment fast or maybe it was edited (?). There is nothing more elating to a scientist when you ask her about their work. It also brings more content, a real value.

So what’s the real value of science then?