Developing our national research agenda

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PAUL CHUA

ACCORDING to the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) there are currently 2,299 institutions of higher education registered in the Philippines, of which 1,643 (71 percent) are in the private sector. Of the 656 institutions in the public sector, 547 are state universities or colleges, 95 are local universities and colleges. (World Education News). According to the commission, there were 553,706 college graduates in 2014 and 656,284 in 2015.

In some degree programs, our education system requires a research project, better known as a thesis, to be supervised by a professor and later presented to an academic panel for acceptance with/without revisions. Well, research must always be of high quality in order to produce knowledge necessary for improvement in any field of endeavor. With over one million graduates in 2014 and 2015, how many researches have been actually used to increase and improve knowledge. How many were unused duplicated researches and how many were used for further studies?

I have done an undergraduate thesis, two master’s thesis and a dissertation. I wonder how many actually read and used the “recommendations for future studies?” Degree programs involve a lot of coursework and researches. Writing a scientific research paper is a major challenge and requires a great deal of time, money, preparation, patience and scientific writing. Today’s research is increasingly complex and no single individual possesses all the knowledge, skills and techniques required, hence the need for “limitations of the study” in our Chapter I. When I did my thesis proposal, I was free to choose whatever topic I wanted. I was never guided if a similar study had already been done and if my study was an original. There was never a reference nor a guide. While having coffee with friends from the academe, an interesting concept on the problem of duplication of researches, the possibility of collaboration between state universities/colleges, higher educational institutions(SUC/HEIs) and promoting a ladderized approach as a means to save resources and promote healthy competition among students were discussed. If we can provide a compilation of top researches of different SUC/HEIs, would it be more productive than to “add on” rather than repeat an existing study?

Well, duplication of research is defined as a repetition of research efforts. Complementarity refers to strategies to confirm, overturn, or extend particular research findings. Replication of research aims to confirm studies or hypotheses being reevaluated. In this context, replication is not only legitimate but essential, providing “proof positive” of research findings, However, once a hypothesis is accepted, repeating experiments becomes duplicative (J. Fox). Duplication then becomes a waste of time, effort and resources.


As a university student, competition was the norm and I agreed with Herbert Spencer who coined the term “survival of the fittest,” claiming that competition is our fundamental nature. In my opinion, competition in the academe is healthy, but we need to move towards collaboration and work as a people to promote national development. In this aspect, doing collaborative researches built on existing scholarly academic work should be our next step towards developing our national research agenda.

The CHED as the key leader of the Philippine higher education system should encourage collaboration among SUC/HEIs and individual researchers towards developing a compilation of researches to avoid duplication of studies and promote ladderization of research works. CHED should develop policies aimed at improving links across sectors—in particular, between “university and industry” and “university to university” as a partner in developing our national research agenda.

In a study made in 1926 (Lotka), the effects of collaboration on “productivity and impact” indicate that high productivity is indeed correlated with high levels of collaboration. The dictionary definition of collaboration as “working together of individuals to achieve a common goal”. Thus, a ‘research collaboration’ could be defined as the working together of researchers to achieve the common goal of producing new scientific knowledge. It would be ideal if our business chambers sponsor yearly research forums to give directions in relation to our national research agenda, promote and support strategic industries identified by our President.

Collaboration not competition… The power of the CHED to issue a memorandum order requiring all SUC/HEIs to submit their top studies/abstract to avoid duplication of researches and prepare/publish a yearly compilation promoting ladderization of research, encouraging researchers to work together rather than against each other, is a possible direction of our nationalistic research agenda. “Innovation happens when different people with different perspectives work together“(Jonathan Wong). The direct economic contribution of the collaboration of higher education institution research and the long-term benefits for the people, business and socio-political relations will be beyond measurable.

The author took “Essentials of Policy Development” at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore; “Strategic Management of Regulatory and Enforcement Agencies” at the Harvard Kennedy School; and “Leadership and Management for Integrity” at the Central European University.

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