One of the themes that stood out at the launch of Aghambayan, the UP-Department of Science and Technology (DOST) sponsored innovation festival, was the need for UP’s researchers to engage the public regarding the relevance of their work. UP Manila Chancellor Carmencita David-Padilla, in particular, credited successful conversations with lawmakers, hospitals and the general public as a major reason why her research on children’s health eventually became what is known now as the Newborn Screening Act of 2004.
Padilla was one of three panelists at the launch, which was held on May 30 at the B Hotel in Quezon City. She was joined by two other distinguished researchers, Dr. Laura Pham of BIOTECH UP Los Baños and Prof. Louie Balicanta of the UP Department of Geodetic Engineering, who also gave accounts of their research initiatives.
The launch, which connected the experts with several members of the media, served as a preview to the actual festival on June 20, where several UP-DOST research projects aimed at the public good will be showcased at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), Manila.
During Padilla’s presentation, she narrated how she led a research team back in 1996 on newborn screening, which led to the law that sought the implementation of newborn screening services in all Philippine health institutions with birthing facilities. In order to make a case for requiring newborn screening for hospitals, her Newborn Screening Project, led by UP-Philippine General Hospital’s (UP-PGH) Department of Pediatrics, worked to provide the necessary data for government showing that the Philippines could save countless lives, in addition to $11 million every year by adopting such an initiative.
Today, according to Padilla, newborn screening is conducted in some 6,500 facilities across the country, giving Filipino children a fighting chance against potentially fatal conditions like congenital hypothyroidism.
Similarly, Pham gave an account of the benefits of her own research on protein-enriched copra meal (PECM) for animal feeds. This project, which she says is unique across the country in its focus, helps small Filipino farmers find cheaper alternatives to improve productivity, given how 92,000 metric tons of copra meal was produced here in 2005.
The series of talks was capped by Balicanta, a member of the famed Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) and Data for Disaster Risk and Exposure Assessment for Mitigation (DREAM) Program. Since, 2012, the project has covered over 150,000 square kilometres around the country using LiDAR technology, and has mapped 18 major river basins and more than 200 other rivers. These detailed maps and models, which are proactive measures against natural hazards, are now being made accessible to both government and the private sector to aid in land use planning, disaster risk management, agriculture and other uses.
Ultimately, the whole point of Aghambayan, according to UP College of Mass Communication Dean Elena Pernia, is to share with the public the fruits of scientific research that is “for the people”. Going beyond the impression that scientists operate from the “ivory tower”, the festival stresses the value of science and evidence that improves people’s lives and relevant to the development needs of the country. (Andre DP Encarnacion, UP MPRO)