The new scientists with Scientist I rank from the Department of Agriculture (DA) include five researchers from the Philippine Carabao Center and the Philippine Rice Research Institute: Dr. Edwin C. Atabay (Animal Reproductive Biotechnology), Dr. Eufrocina P. Atabay (Animal Reproductive Biotechnology), Dr. Arnel N. del Barrio (Ruminant Nutrition), Dr. Rosalina M. Lapitan (Ruminant Nutrition) and Dr. Norvie L. Manigbas (Rice Breeding).

The other five scientists also with Scientist I rank are from the University of the Philippines (UP) System. They are Dr. Nelly S. Aggangan (Forest Biotechnology), Dr. Edwin P. Alcantara (Entomology), Ms. Cristina M. Bajet (Pesticide Chemistry), Dr. Susan May Calumpang (Chemical Ecology) from UP Los Baños, and Dr. Erlinda G. Naret (Fish Nutrition) from the UP Visayas.

In addition, Dr. Arvin C. Diesmos from the National Museum of the Philippines has been promoted to the Scientist III position from Scientist II. Diesmos specializes in herpetology and conservation ecology.

These newly conferred scientists will be entitled to automatic increase in salary grade corresponding to their rank. Other entitlements include representation and travel allowances, publication assistance, international paper presentation assistance, and Magna Carta benefits pursuant to the Republic Act 8439 or the Magna Carta for Scientists, Engineers, Researchers and other S&T related personnel.

These new scientists were sworn in by Civil Service Commission and Scientific Career Council (SCC) Chairman Francisco Duque III and Department of Science and Technology Secretary and SCC co-chairman Mario Montejo during a recognition ceremony last June 30 at the Eastwood Richmonde Hotel, Libis, Quezon City.

The inclusion of this latest batch of scientists conferred under the System makes the total number to 147 career scientists since the System was institutionalized in 1983 by late President Ferdinand Marcos through Executive Order 901.

Why career scientists?

Scientists conferred under the Scientific Career System are often referred to as career scientists because of the System’s unique characteristics of providing a career path that allows scientists to get promoted to a higher scientist rank and receive the corresponding salary grade even without getting promoted in their plantilla position as long as they satisfy the required productivity points and qualification requirements of the rank.

The SCS was created within this premise because of many highly productive research personnel in the government service who, even while having the necessary qualifications and outstanding performance, do not get appointed to higher positions because of the lack or absence of such positions and other bureaucratic issues on promotion.

The following are the scientist ranks in the Scientific Career System with their corresponding salary grade (SG): Scientist I, SG 26; Scientist II, SG 27; Scientist III, SG 28; Scientist IV, SG 29; and Scientist V, SG 30. Thus, a career scientist with a rank of Scientist I receives Salary Grade 26 equivalent to P58,028 (source: Fourth Tranche Monthly Salary Schedule for Civilian Personnel of the National Government, 2012, Department of Budget and Management), even if he/she is holding a much lower plantilla position; in addition, a career scientist is eligible to other benefits and entitlements as prescribed by the law.

To date, the System has a membership profile of 77 Scientist I, 25 Scientist II, 20 Scientist III and 14 Scientist IV. However, there are only 47 active scientists and seven who have transferred to the career executive service officer (CESO) position.

A means of attraction and retention

Evidently, there is a striking shortage of R&D manpower in the country. The Philippines has only 11,490 scientists and engineers, of which only 3,198 work in the government, which translates to 130 scientists and engineers per million population (Source: DOST Survey R&D Expenditures and Human Resources in Government, Higher Education and Private Non-Profit Sectors, 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2007). The SCS is a tool that provides incentives and rewards to ensure attraction and retention of highly qualified persons in the science and technology sector. To attract more researchers to the SCS, orientation seminars are being conducted throughout the country to provide needed information to those who are already or nearly qualified to become scientists and to the neophyte researchers to encourage them to make their career in science.

In 2012, the SCS opened the system to non-faculty, full-time researchers in the state universities. This paved the way for the implementation of SCS at the University of the Philippines System, and thus, in March 2013, 17 full-time researchers from the three campuses of UP at Diliman, Los Baños and the Visayas were awarded scientist rank in the System.

Presently, the agencies of government which have active SCS scientists and/or recently retired scientists are the Department of Agriculture, Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. While there were several conferred SCS scientists from the Department of Health in the past, DOH currently does not have a conferred scientist and thus, it now aims to further encourage and recognize its researchers and strengthen its research through the SCS. In 2013, DOH Secretary Enrique Ona signed the department order establishing SCS at DOH and this has led to a series of orientation seminars conducted in its agencies such as the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine and specialty research hospitals. The DOH aims to submit its first batch of nominees to the SCS during the third quarter of 2014.

Producing high-caliber career scientists

While recruitment is placed as one of the top priorities in the System’s implementation, the Scientific Career Council (SCC) also ensures that quality and quantity shall be the two indicators to gauge the System’s efficiency and accountability. Consultations with the SCC’s Special Technical Committees are continually done to further fine-tune the current evaluation system used in assessing nominees who are just about to enter and the active scientists’ yearly performance. Recently, the SCC issued a resolution amending the rules and guidelines for assessing its nominees to ensure that high quality is met in terms of nominees’ discoveries and inventions, scientific publications and awards and the capability to mentor budding researchers, while maintaining the highest level of acceptance and recognition in the scientific community in terms of professional, moral and ethical integrity.

The SCC Secretariat, now being administered by the National Academy of Science and Technology Philippines (NAST PHL), the country’s leading recognition and advisory body and an attached agency of the DOST, is vigorous in its objective of getting the system established and implemented in all government agencies and state colleges and universities with qualified full-time research personnel who can become members of SCS to increase the thin number of 47 active scientists. The secretariat is actively profiling SUCs and research institutes’ R&D manpower to determine which among the institutions shall be covered by its orientation.

Looking forward

Although SCS has had almost three decades of existence, much is still needed to be done to fulfill its goal of becoming a highly effective recognition program in the civil service in terms of increased number of high quality scientists produced in each research institution and excellent scientific productivity. The recent initiatives of the SCC to be more proactive in reaching out to the researchers of research institutes all throughout the country and more receptive to the needs and norms of a healthy culture of research are bold steps that will make the SCS more dynamic and in tune with its objectives. With these sustained efforts, coupled with appropriate support from the scientists’ agencies, the SCS will be closer to living up to its goal of “Producing World Class Filipino Scientists in the Government Service. (Mary Charlotte O. Fresco, SCC Secretariat)