by University Professor Emeritus Cecilia A. Florencio

Presented during the Awarding Ceremony of the 2011 Scientific Productivity System held on 28 October 2011 at the Ang Bahay ng Alumni, UP Diliman

My assignment in this afternoon’s Awarding Ceremony of the 2011 UP Scientific Productivity System or UP SPS is to give an inspirational message. But how does one inspire an already highly motivated group? I cannot imagine your having accomplished all that you had reported in your application to the UP SPS Committee out of sheer boredom or in uninspired ways.

I had come, nonetheless, because I would like to personally congratulate all of you on qualifying to hold the title of Scientist I, II or III under the UP SPS, truly a great stride in your scientific journey, and to share some thoughts, albeit in a few words, that I hope would get us to pause and to ponder the spine of what I call the “scientification” of our university.

There are now 113 of us since the system was instituted in 2006, an average of about 20 qualifiers per year. This yearly entry into the system accounts for less than one percent of more than 2500 associate and full professors.

Most qualifiers (79 percent) merited the first scientist level. Some 20 percent came in as Scientist II and only one percent as Scientist III. Of the 23 scientists appointed in 2006 less than half retained their title during the next round of evaluation three years after. It would be interesting to see how many of those who made it to the second round will still be in the roster on the third round in 2012.

Let us analyze the factors that could explain our first six years of experience and from there plot our way forward.

If a culture of research-mindness is a distinctive quality of the research university we aspire to be, we need to go beyond the UP SPS and all other significant boosters of research as presently regarded. Deserving of our most serious consideration is the flow of research to and from the other functions of this university. For now let me touch on the connectivity between research and teaching and the importance of research-minded teaching in the development of a research-minded institution, and the concepts of researcher-teacher and learned scientist.

Instilling research consciousness and building research competence in UP students should begin at the very beginning when we conceptualize our general and professional curricular programs. The logical follow through comes in the development and implementation of research-based syllabi and teaching-learning activities in all courses, not only in those explicitly titled research, special topics or problems, and thesis or dissertation.

As scientists let us ask ourselves in what ways and for what ends we use research publications and other research outputs, ours and those of our colleagues, in teaching? More importantly, how do we help nurture desirable research ethos (discipline and ethics) in our academic community?

Let me take Reading, for example. By reading I mean reading independently, critically, widely, interactively and with due diligence. I also mean using with respect what one reads. University Professor Emeritus Gemino Abad wrote in his 2008 UP Centennial paper, “The infinitives to read, to think, to write – strictly in that order – comprise at the most basic level the life of the University.”

In his paper “The Mismeasurement of Science,” Peter Lawrence from the University of Cambridge wrote about the 48 citations of one of his SCI-indexed articles. He found only eight are appropriate to what is actually reported, three are plain wrong and 37 are incidental i.e., a different article could or should have been cited. It appears that “citations are determined more by visibility and convenience than by the content or quality of the work.”

In a related paper entitled “Read Before You Cite,” M.V. Simkin and V.P. Roychowdury from the University California, Los Angeles reported a method of estimating what percentage of people who cited a paper had actually read it. They came up with an estimate of 20 percent. According to the authors, “Perhaps for a scientist the best candidate for (such) a lie-scale (in a psychological test) is the question ‘Do you read all of the papers that you cite?’”

Here is one more on reading. In his 2008 Centennial paper, University Professor Emeritus Edgardo Gomez shared the story of an American doctoral candidate in biology who, during the defense of her dissertation about bioluminescence in the slipmouth or sapsap, was asked whether she knew the story of the Spanish hero, El Cid. Although the question caught the student by surprise, she told the panel she had read the epic. After the examination she asked about the relevance of the question, and the chair of the panel told her that they just wanted to know if she was sufficiently well-read to be worthy of a doctoral degree from the UCLA.

What about us? What is our collective sense of eminent qualities of a Scientist from the country’s national university? How do we uphold it and do so without temporizing?