The Road Ahead
by Katherine Develos-Bagarinao
It has been a year since the Bahay Kubo Research website has been first posted online. After languishing in relative obscurity for months at the Geocities Homestead, it has been transferred to this site bearing its own domain only last month. Somehow various Filipino search engines online have now recognized the site and have readily incorporated it into their database. However, armed with just a handful of profiles solicited from close friends and colleagues, the site material is considerably sparse. We were leagues away from our goal. After careful deliberation, we finally decided that perhaps what the site needed was an identity of its own. Hence the main reason for the transfer was to promote the site with a more professional, serious image. At the Geocities domain, the site was cluttered with pop-up ads and somehow appeared to be just another personal website built by some overly eager science enthusiasts (which is not entirely false, at least for the science enthusiast part). We were receiving contributions a trickle at a time, no matter how many solicitation emails we send, and no matter how many reminders we send to the very same people, week after week. Maybe they were just not interested, we thought. We were getting wary but not quite ready to give up. So we made the decision fast, and here it is now in its very own domain.
Contrary to our initial expectations, we were only getting individual contributions from researchers one at a time every month. Since its establishment, we have only been able to solicit contributions from 26 persons. We have barely scratched the surface of what we believe to be a much larger population of Filipino researchers worldwide. Now that it bears its own domain name online, we hope that this would encourage more people to contribute their profiles and to help us in our endeavor to establish a more active network all around the world. This site is purely a volunteer task, and we are thriving on the inspiration of it being the first of its kind to be established on the net. We have not entirely lost hope; we are still hoping to discover more researchers who are willing to participate because they share our vision and passion for research. Still, it is truly disheartening when our enthusiasm is met by indifference, and more so when we get refusals from the persons we invite. It almost seems too naive to think that with the Internet revolution which changed our modes of communication, getting information would be easy. After all, being hooked up to the Internet has virtually destroyed all distance barriers. We could now reach out to one another in more ways than one compared to about a decade ago. Establishing a network would be easy, at least in principle. But we have encountered (and are still encountering) more than a few obstacles along the way. On the other hand, we are encouraged to see that every day is marked by many visits to the site; it is evident that people are becoming more and more aware of it online. We can only hope that increased visits to the site would spread the awareness of the scientific activities that our fellowmen are involved with.
One of the main reasons why some were hesitant about contributing to this website was that they were “embarrassed” to have their profiles online, open to the scrutiny of the online public. Perhaps they are content to go about their research in relative anonymity. Or perhaps in their self-evaluation, their level of achievement wasn’t comparable enough to those of “high-ranking” scientists. What they have failed to recognize, however, is that the Bahay Kubo Research website is not for evaluation purposes, or for ranking of anybody’s work, but seeks to unify Filipino researchers and establish a network where free exchange and assistance can be extended. The information they provide about themselves will probably be useless for them, but useful for another. It is also erroneous to think that only researchers and scientists interested in the subject area of their expertise will visit the site and read their profiles. For instance, months ago we received an email from a high school student in Bicol, very grateful that he was able to find a website of Filipino scientists. He contacted us by email and even asked us for a reprint of an article because he was looking for a research subject! This case more than illustrates the need for vital role models for the youth, as a source of encouragement for them to pursue a career later on in the sciences or engineering. And nowhere can you find a more obvious lack of role models for science than in our society. At best they are only represented in the education sector, and does not include those who have embraced research as career and yes, a way of life. There is comfort to be derived from the fact that with the prowess of the Internet, we have a way to make our work and ourselves known to the public at large – anybody who has access to the Internet. If our work would serve as an inspiration to budding scientists, engineers or any science enthusiast, then we have achieved more than a simple victory for science. If one has a passion for the subject and studied it for years, virtually lived it and wallowed in it in those long hours in the laboratory, then there doesn’t seem to be a reason why one has to be embarrassed about it. If there would be anyone else who should be proud of our work, it should be ourselves. If not us, then who else?
This is our opportunity to harness the seemingly infinite possibilities that lie ahead of us. One sees the lack of scientific tradition in our country, and asks why. The reason is that we have not actively pursued the establishment of a network of Filipinos who are united to make a stand for science. There is a lack of scientific awareness among the general public, a lack of role models that the youth can emulate and identify with. If asked to name any scientific icon in Philippine history, would there be any name that immediately comes to mind? Do we know how many scientists we have in the country and all over the world? Do we have any ideas of what scientific achievements they have amassed in their respective fields? The answer is NO. We don’t have an inkling of how the Filipino potential in the field of S&T is being harnessed, nationally and globally.
Indeed, the road ahead is tough and full of challenges. But for every Filipino we find with a passion for science and willing enough to share his/her life’s work to others, we will find another. It is just a matter of finding them in time. We believe that it is possible to gather support from these people who understand the situation and are willing to do something about it. It is time to unite and make a stand.