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DOST: Public trust in science in PHL is high despite low budget

DOST Undersecretary Rowena Cristina L. Guevara

THE Department of Science and Technology (DOST)—even with its shrinking budget allocations in the last two years—has remained one of the most trusted government agencies in the Philippines, its news release said. 

DOST Undersecretary for Research and Development Rowena Cristina L. Guevara said that while the share of research and development (R&D) in the national budget significantly decreased—from 0.75 percent in 2019 to 0.37 percent in 2021—the agency maintained a “high level of public trust.”

From 2007 to 2017, however, R&D received a steady budgetary increase, averaging at about 0.65 percent of the country’s national budget, according to Guevara.

Speaking at a recent webinar of the Southeast Asia Science Advice Network (SEA SAN) on the theme, “Rebuilding Public Trust in Science,” Guevara said the DOST ranked third among the country’s most trusted government agencies by PUBLiCUS Asia Inc. in its March 20 to 29 poll.

The independent, noncommissioned, national poll covered such areas as the state of the economy and national issues.

Guevara also shared the results of the Wellcome Index 2018, which showed the countries where people “are most likely to have high trust in scientists.” A rating of 30 percent and above means “high” trust.

The Philippines ranked 16th—between New Zealand and Iceland—with a high trust of 32 percent; 52 percent, medium trust; 13 percent, low trust; and 3 percent, have no opinion.

Globally, the Wellcome Global Monitor Trust in Scientists Index found 18 percent of people have a high level of trust in scientists; 54 percent, medium trust; 14 percent, low trust; and 13 percent, have no opinion.

Wellcome is a UK-based foundation that funds health research, leads policy and advocacy campaigns and builds global partnerships

The DOST said in the same news release that it faced many challenges as one of the frontline agencies during the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly on the “shift needed for the effective rollout of science information and instructions on quarantine restrictions and safety protocols.”

“The Covid-19 crisis presented an opportunity for science and technology to shine the light on responsive government and governance,” Guevara said.

Bannering the technologies churned out by the DOST to deal with the pandemic, the R&D communications team implemented various activities, such as virtual pressers, social media infographics and informative videos, which were regularly disseminated to the public. 

“To rebuild trust in science, our top decision-makers need to appreciate science and technology and have science advisers [participate] in the decision-making process. We need to continue solving pressing national problems with S&T to continuously increase science literacy as everyone can relate to national problems,” Guevara said.

In collaboration with the International Network for Government Science Advice–Asia Regional Chapter (INGSA-Asia), the webinar featured SEA SAN and INGSA-Asia members as part of an expert panel of speakers involved in social science, media and communications.

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