A letter to the Inquirer's editor by Flor Lacanilao, a retired professor of marine science at the University of the Philippines, has this to say:
"The rapid growth of China is not surprising because so many Chinese leaders are scientists and engineers by training,” a science publication noted in its Dec. 7, 2007 editorial. Whereas in our country, even leading officials of the National Research Council of the Philippines, National Academy of Science and Technology, and the Department of Science and Technology have been mostly nonscientists.
The problem, however, is that our present scientists and engineers are just not interested in government or anything else outside the confines of their own narrow professional field. If scientists/engineers are not heading the National Research Council or the Department of Science and Technology, they only have themselves to blame if you ask me.
In a democracy where the ultimate arbiter in the allocation of resources are the people, power and position are to be fought for; they cannot be expected to be handed down to our scientists by an all-knowing central committee. If scientists and engineers want to head agencies or occupy public office, they must first offer themselves in the public sphere, declare themselves available so to speak by engaging in the conversation of governance.
Most of our scientists, however, are too condescending to bother themselves with such mundane things as explaining themselves to the people. For instance, during a heated public dispute at the DENR with regard to a particular set of emission tests, one senior scientist, a vice-president of a national professional organization, haughtily declared she wouldn't want to talk with the opposing panel because she would be talking "way above their heads." Even the great Richard Feynman took the trouble of explaining science to the masses.
Our scientists and engineers are now marginalized because they are uncomfortable in a democratic setting where their ideas have to be argued and vetted publicly, and judged by people whom they consider are their intellectual inferiors. I once heard Sen. Pimentel complaining that one of the reasons why the government is not supporting local science is that when scientists come to the Senate to promote their projects, they are incomprehensible - plus, they dress and look weird.
As long as our scientists don't address this handicap, we will never see more of the likes of Engr. Bayani Fernando or Dr. Juan Flavier in the public sphere.