A science wish list for 2018
- Scientists should be politically active or entrepreneurs of their own research
- Politicians must have science degree or training when running for office
- Gene mapping, if developed, can tackle many deadly ailments
As 2017 comes to an end, I beg the kind reader to indulge me with my own wishful thinking for the world and science in the coming year.
Wish No. 1. My most ardent wish for 2018 is that scientists run for public office, so they could pass laws and make decisions that are rational, logical and research-based.
There was a short-lived attempt at this in the Philippines — but the experiment did not last long. Scientists do not know how to shake hands with a smile, kiss babies, pat backs, or give away money to buy votes, and so, after one term in Philippine Congress representing the marginalised sector of the academe and scientific community, they lost the following election.
Wish No. 2. Failing this, I wish that people running for public office should be required by law to have at least a bachelor’s degree (preferably a master’s) in science, or training in science, so their political decisions would be research- or evidence-based.
We have legislators in Asia-Pacific who want to impose the death penalty for heinous crimes. If only they did their research they would realise that the death penalty does not deter crimes. It only succeeds in putting the poor behind bars or executing them. The rich, with their power of monetary persuasion, commonly get away with murder or capital punishment.
If our leaders would only learn the value of research, they would have been able, by now, to improve the traffic situation of the mega cities of Asia — Bangkok, Beijing, Jakarta, Manila, Mumbai, and Shanghai, to name just a few. The trouble is our scientists are allergic to politics. They don’t know how to communicate their wisdom and lack the patience to hobnob with the masses.
“I wish Asian governments would put more money into research and development. It is no secret that the nations that invest heavily in research and development are the most progressive.”
Wish No. 3. If scientists cannot be full-time politicians, or politicians cannot be scientists, I wish the thousands of scientists in Asia-Pacific would be science activists.
I wish they would join their colleagues in other parts of the world and march for science next year. Remember Earth Day (22 April 2017) when scientists joined non-scientists to march for science and against climate change. The nerve centres for that march were London, Paris and Washington. Scientists from the vulnerable Asia-Pacific region and much of the developing world were conspicuous by their absence.
Would it not be exciting for once to see scientists take to the streets in their lab coats, brandishing placards instead of test tubes, and shouting slogans like “down with politics” and “up with science”?
Wish No. 4. I wish we could develop entrepreneurial spirit among our scientists, so they will be interested in what happens to their discoveries beyond their laboratories and experimental stations. Perhaps we should include in the curriculum for future scientists’ courses on how to start and manage business for dummies, I mean, scientists. Scientists should be the first residents in the business incubators and industrial and science parks that governments are putting up.
Wish No. 5. I wish Asian governments would put more money into research and development. It is no secret that the nations that invest heavily in research and development are the most progressive.
Three Asian economic giants — China, Japan and South Korea — are the biggest spenders in research and development in the world. This is one reason why they are the most developed in Asia. While global R&D spending is at a new high, small South-East Asian economies are laggards. It is no accident that they are the least developed in the region. Wish No. 6. I wish President Trump would listen to his scientists about global warming and rejoin the Paris Climate Change Accord. It is ironic that the ignorance of one businessman-politician would trump the wisdom of the super majority (97 per cent) of American scientists who have said that the world is heating up dangerously and we should reduce global warming now.
Wish No. 7. I wish that before the end of this decade the world would have developed science to efficiently harness green power — from earth, sun, sea, wind, waves and waste. I hope the research and development for these energy sources can be ramped up to bring the costs down quickly because I am ready to build my first green energy home on the slopes of the mountain where I live.
Wish No. 8. I wish science will find a cure for today’s deadly diseases — cancer, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, dengue, ebola, tuberculosis, malaria, heart diseases and Parkinson’s disease, among others — through gene mapping and modern medicine.
Corollary to this stress on modern medicine, I hope scientists can go back to nature, study and promote the value and efficacy of nature healing.
Wish No. 9. I wish scientists, through stem cell therapy, would discover the fountain of youth in my time — the magic formula that would boost man’s health, vanquish disease, and extend life by a hundred years so we can enjoy life when we are most wise and healthy.
Youth is wasted on the young, a poet has said. We spend our youth on the wrong things, and when we realise what is of value we no longer have the energy to enjoy it.
Wish No. 10. I wish to be on that first commercial tourist flight to space with Richard Branson, so before I pass away I could appreciate the celestial beauty of Mother Earth from a million-mile distance and thank God for providing humans with a home we should all learn to love and care for.
Crispin C. Maslog, former journalist with Agence France-Presse, is an environmental activist and former science professor, Silliman U and UP Los Banos, Philippines. He is a founding member and now Chair of the Board, Asian Media Information and Communication Centre (AMIC) based in Manila.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Asia & Pacific desk.