Research and Ethics: Basics on Country's Development
Just a week ago, our instructor in Science Reporting assigned us to read two articles and make a review or reflection paper afterwards. The articles were “Public Understanding of Science” by Flor Lacanilao and “Science, Guided by Ethics, Can Lift Up the Poor” by Freeman J. Dyson.
The first article talks about the research and development process, giving emphasis on research as the basic component of technology and ultimately of development. Lacanilao points out that the backward growth of a country is rooted from the kind of research its people practices. The second article, on the other hand, talks about the “green” and “gray” technologies which people used throughout the history. Dyson argues that people must invest more on the “green” technology for technologies generated biologically are safer than technologies generated industrially. He also argues that technology alone cannot lift up poor countries; rather, it should be guided by ethics. That is, technology must not “provide new toys for the rich” but must bring benefits to everybody.
I am convinced to Lacanilao’s claim that development depends on quality information generated from right research. By saying quality information and right research, Lacanilao mean information generated from a research paper that has gone through peer reviews and verification studies internationally. A country’s performance on producing quality information can be measured by the number of research papers its scientists has published internationally or what is referred to as its share in the scientific growth.
In March 2011, The Royal Society published “Knowledge, Networks and Nations: Global scientific collaboration in the 21st century”, showing the performance of countries in terms of published research outputs in the scientific world. From 2004-2008, the scientific community worldwide has published about 1.5 million research papers. United States, which leads the world in research, has a share of 20%. China, which has emerged and now ranks second, has a share of 11%. Included in the list of top producers of scientific outputs are United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, Canada, Spain and India.
Given these data and the knowledge of world economy, one could see an interesting correlation between a country’s share in the scientific world and its contribution to world’s economic output. In The Richest People report on the world’s largest economies 2012, USA remained leading in world economy, comparable to its share on scientific world. China ranks second largest economy and, like the US, has the same ranking in scientific world. Eight of the top ten contributors in scientific growth are also included in the top ten world largest economies for the year 2012. It is unlikely that this correlation is coincidental.
Undoubtedly, science plays a major role in the development of an individual and the country as a whole. In “The Public Understanding of Science”, Jane Gregory and Steve Miller enumerated five benefits people can get from science. Two of these are benefits to individuals and to national economies. Science can provide individuals with useful ideas which they can use in decision making. On the other hand, science also aids in the development of technological innovations which can boost national economies. This benefit of science is evident to developed countries which all have strong scientific support and have established a right scientific atmosphere for research. As Lacanilao noted, “Development depends on technology, which depends on science, and ultimately on research.”
However, a lot of countries do not enjoy fully the benefits of science. Given the vicious cycle on research and development, one could say that the underdevelopment of a country is rooted from its poor research practices. This is especially evident to developing countries where research practices are problematic. In science, a research paper has to be accessible and pass though international peer reviews for verification purposes. In many developing countries like Philippines, however, research papers are only published locally. Moreover, there is inadequate number of experts to review and validate them. As a result, these papers have doubtful validity and, thus, have not contributed much to scientific growth.
But why is there a need for research outputs to be validated? From the article of Lacanilao, I have learned the importance of having published research papers and validated studies. Having gone through reviews and verifications, scientific papers give quality and reliable information. If this kind of information is exploited, people will more likely learn something useful ad errors in decision making are less likely to be taken. Aside from benefitting the general public, quality information derived from right research is especially important and useful in policymaking, development programs and other purposes. A good research can result to effective local implementation of projects and eventually, to development. Most importantly, advancements in Philippine science can be achieved by publishing in international journals, thereby enabling international experts to continually study and review it.
It must be noted, however, that right research practices can never aid in the development of a country unless quality information produced is disseminated equally to everybody. This is what Freeman Dyson argues in his article “Science, Guided by Ethics, Can Lift Up the Poor.” Technology must not be a commercial enterprise which can only be availed by rich people; rather it must be a right which everybody deserves to benefit from. Technology must be driven by ethics to eradicate the wide gap between rich and poor. That is the general public, not only the rich, must receive all the quality information produced so that everybody can use it. With every individual equipped with scientific knowledge, everyone could be able to participate in working for development. With consensus-building, social mobilization and social deliberations, development can be achieved.
Science and technology, indeed, plays a significant role in the development of a country. Given this fact, the country should invest more on scientific knowledge. The government together with other institutions should work together to establish a right scientific atmosphere and strong support on it. They should also find ways on how to effectively disseminate scientific information to everybody to establish a collective effort in attaining development. With quality and useful information being sent to every individual, considering that everybody use it to achieve their full potential, comes development of a country as a whole.
Dyson, F. J. (2000). Science, Guided by Ethics, Can Lift Up the Poor. http://www.nytimes.com/2000/05/29/opinion/29iht-eddyson.2.t.html (24 Jun 2012).
Gregory, J., & Miller, S. (1998). The Public Understanding of Science. In A. Wilson (Ed.), Handbook of science communication (pp. 3-16). UK: Institute of Physics Publishing, London.
Lacanilao, F. (2005, May 19 & 26). Public Understanding of Science. Philippine Star.
The Richest People. (2012). The World’s Largest Economies 2012. http://www.therichest.org/world/worlds-largest-economies/ (24 Jun 2012).
The Royal Society. (2011). Knowledge, Networks and Nations: Global scientific collaboration in the 21st century. http://royalsociety.org/uploadedFiles/Royal_Society_Content/policy/publications/2011/4294976134.pdf (23 Jun 2012).