‘Science for the people’: Filipino scientists drum up support for DOST’s Balik Scientist Program

Be part of the country’s Balik Scientist Program (BSP).

Balik Scientist Awardees Dr. Guillermo A. Mendoza, Dr. Anna Karen C. Laserna, and Dr. Lawrence A. Limjuco (Photos from DOST)

This was the call made by renowned Filipino scientists from abroad during the BSP’s virtual orientation and public consultation held on Wednesday, June 30.

Balik Scientist Awardees Dr. Anna Karen C. Laserna, Dr. Lawrence A. Limjuco, and Dr. Guillermo A. Mendoza testified that the Filipino scientists’ notable engagements for the health, industry, and agriculture sectors “are indeed possible” amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) cited.

During the orientation, DOST Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña noted that from 1975 to 2020, the DOST was “able to work with 564 Balik Scientists through 716 engagements.”

“BSP is a brain gain initiative of the DOST and has been instrumental in promoting and implementing science, technology and innovation activities for national development, especially in areas where we have limited local expertise.”

DOST Undersecretary for Research and Development Dr. Rowena Cristina L. Guevara cited 34 Balik Scientists continued to serve the scientific and developmental goals of the program.

She said they implemented the Supplemental Guidelines and Risk Management Plan which allowed Balik Scientists to be virtually engaged during the pandemic when there are travel restrictions.

During the event, it was disclosed that Laserna, a metabolomics expert, assisted the De La Salle University - Central Instrumentation Facility in becoming a center for research in metabolomics, and partnered with the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development’s (PCHRD) Tuklas Lunas Program.

Laserna is a research fellow at the National University of Singapore (NUS) and a short-term Balik Scientist.

During the event, Limjuco, a recipient of the ASEAN-Republic of Korea (ROK) for Excellence in Science cited how DOST through its sectoral planning councils, research and development institutes, collegial and scientific bodies, and scientific and technological services “coordinates science and technology-related projects in the Philippines and formulates policies and projects in support of national development, especially the BSP.”

"Dr. Limjuco also shared different practices in promoting a research-based Material Science and Engineering (MSE) subject during his engagement with BSP, including the shift from experimental research to review of related articles, remote learning via international collaborations, on-site activities with strict compliance to safety precaution measures, and continuous learning through remote research,” the DOST said.

Mendoza, a seven-time Balik Scientist Awardee and a consultant to numerous international institutions such as the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and UN Forum on Forests (UNFF), zeroed in on his experience as an expert in artificial intelligence and watershed management and hydrologic modelling.

"With the use of geospatial technologies, Dr. Guillermo conducted studies in applying precision agriculture principles in potato production and assessing landslide susceptibility,” the DOST said.

“Sectors of the industry, agriculture and health gravely suffered during this pandemic, and now, more than ever, it is important to increase the number of Filipino scientists, technologists, and experts to be able to help the country move forward and quickly recover,” the DOST said.

“It is also through the pandemic that research and development have been more relevant and needed, the DOST Balik Scientist Program offers new avenues and opportunities for extensive and prolonged research and development for the country,” it added.

DOST-1 Regional Director Armando Q. Ganal urged Filipino experts abroad to apply for the program.

“We enjoin you to either be a Balik Scientist and share your learnings and skills to the country or to be a host agency for our Balik Scientists. Either way, it will always be Science for the People,” he said.