Friday, May 17, 2013

A State of Philippine Astronomy

It is a sad fact that astronomy in the Philippines is subject to a power play between institutions, societies, and individuals - a thing we can do without in order for progress to happen.

I've been interested in astronomy since childhood and upon entering college took the nearest thing - physics. I maintained my passion for astronomy while enrolled in physics, and have enjoyed sharing it with my classmates and other students. I got in contact with astronomy enthusiasts and amateur astronomers via the internet who were also enthusiastic to share their insights and experiences. I eventually learned about the first astronomy program in the country in the Philippines for undergraduate and graduate studies. Because of my passion for astronomy I decided to take it. Later I got oriented with the astronomy societies in the Philippines, and later the rivalries between them. I affiliated with one group but still hold a stand to remain neutral since I was more into it for the science and involvement. Several individuals also hold a neutral stand, but sadly some individuals refuse to affiliate themselves with the other parties.

Eventually I worked for RTU as an instructor for the Department of Earth and Space Sciences. However, there came a time when other institutions looked down on our department also due to its new nature. Other individuals eventually came into the picture who appear to be too competitive that they assume positions of leadership and coordination for astronomy but fail to include or reach out to others. Even government institutions themselves appear to have a conflict of interest when it comes to astronomy. There came instances when PAGASA, the government's arm for astronomy, was side tracked by other branches of the DOST.

All these power plays result to misrepresentation in the international scientific community, lack of opportunities for students and astronomy enthusiasts (neutral or not), and lack of direction for progress and development in the country.

Now, complaining like this would surely get some eyebrows raised or hit some individuals; even put my career at risk by getting on some individuals' radar. However, if anyone contests, then PLEASE DO PROVE ME WRONG by showing that cooperation can happen. That ASTRONOMY IS FOR ALL and does not belong to a single individual, society, or institution. That competition is alright as long as it is FAIR and HEALTHY. If you are more qualified than others, help rather than pull down. Leave the politics to politicians, and focus on the science. After all, most of the programs we implement are geared to reach out.

Lastly, I wish to end my idealistic ranting with a quote from the Keck Observatory, "The process of science is not complete until it is shared with others."

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