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‘Balik Scientist’ program attracts 28 returnees

THE Department of Science and Technology’s “Balik Scientist” program was supporting 28 returning researchers beneficiaries as of November, according to data made available to BusinessWorld.

Twelve scientists were assigned to the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development; six in the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development; and 10 to the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development.

All the overseas-based beneficiaries were placed in the program’s three priority areas. The 45-year-old Balik Scientist program has since facilitated the return of 555 scientists.

The program considers overseas-based scientists who are willing to return to the Philippines for engagements of varying durations.

This year, a number of Balik Scientist projects were put on hold due to the lockdown, according to University of the Philippines-Marine Science Institute (MSI) Executive Director Laura T. David.

At an online briefing Tuesday, Ms. David said: “We had difficulty at the start with respect to (the scientists) conducting research in the field because there were restrictions on travel…There were really some research projects that had to be put on hold because of the pandemic,” she said. The MSI is one of the institutions that hosted Balik Scientist participants this year.

When travel restrictions were lifted, the scientists were able to conduct their projects.

Ms. David added that all the Balik Scientist awardees were “very tech-savvy,” which made it easier for them to transfer their lectures online.

Chief Academic Officer and the Dean of the Professional Schools of the University of Mindanao Eugenio S. Guhao, Jr. said his department experienced challenges in communicating with the scientists due to the “slow internet connection” in the area.

Under Republic Act 11035 or the Balik Scientist Act, the program aims to reverse brain drain, strengthen science and technology, and promote the sharing of knowledge, among others. — Angelica Y. Yang

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