A MISSING, but crucial, prerequisite to all our methods of addressing major problems is putting the right people in charge, and how to select them. There is hardly a better way, as shown by developed and fast-developing countries. We have tried them all, always with the thought that we have put the right people in charge. But our problems in education, science, energy, and nearly all others have become worse.
Every new administration has new programs of reform and new sets of officials. Yet the next administration gets to inherit more problems. In addition, each succeeding administration has to face increasing global threats from terrorism, diseases and a changing climate.
The right people are those who have made major contributions to their respective fields of endeavor. Hence, the first step to solve major problems is to know how to select the right people. Summits, our usual way of solving problems, like the recent one on the ongoing energy crisis in Mindanao, did not work in the past. Why have we not learned this from long experience?
The noted scientist Fred Grinnell said in his book “Everyday Practice of Science” (2009) that the easiest way to assess if one has made any major contributions to one’s field is with the ISI database called Web of Knowledge (which shows a list of authors, published titles and citations). Since this requires subscription, you can inquire about it from Google Scholar, he added. From the list, choose only the papers published in journals covered in Science Citation Index or Social Sciences Citation Index.
Only such properly published authors have the necessary expertise to evaluate information correctly. The lack of such expertise of the wrong people in charge explains why, even with the advice of respected scientists, this, Grinnell’s suggestion has not been heeded; and the decisions of those in charge—based largely on personal opinion and common sense—often prevailed. This has been happening through the past decades.
The overall result is our state of underdevelopment, which is mainly caused by the poor state of science and higher education. Our government leaders have long been reminded of this by their counterparts from developed countries.
In 2010 I said, in a post at the online forum PhilScience, that President Aquino, who has the trust and is the last hope of the Filipino masses, should at least be able to put in place in six years the established essentials of sustainable progress. Now, President Aquino has still a chance—four years—to choose and put the right people in charge, and make sure they will put in place the established basics of national growth: Higher Education –> Research –> Science –> Technology –> Development.
retired professor of marine science,
UP Diliman, [email protected]