Upping DLSU’s research credentials: New opportunities for interdisciplinary research

DLSU is a relatively young research university — only several decades since the institution refocused on publications.

For a university to remain internationally competitive, the amount of publications and citations produced by the school is important. Top university rankings, such as Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), consider this a significant factor in their criteria for grading.

In the Philippines, research output remains relatively low, despite top universities’ efforts to improve research output.


Ranking La Salle

For instance, a QS standard measures the number of published research per faculty member to determine the research reputation of a university.

Scopus, a bibliographic database, houses statistics for university research output. Based on Scopus statistics, DLSU has an average of 1.76 documents per author, overtaking Ateneo de Manila University’s (AdMU) 1.43, but falling behind University of the Philippines’ (UP) 1.82.

DLSU’s 11 research centers range in different disciplines, with many focused on engineering, hard sciences, and social sciences, and in turn, has published 1,259 documents divided among the aforementioned disciplines.

University of the Philippines – Diliman (UPD) has 23 research centers that contribute to their Philippine lead at 2,401 documents. UPD exhibits diversity in research, with agriculture having the most published works.

Ateneo’s 555 published works has approximately 25 percent devoted to social sciences. Ateneo has 11 social science research centers out of their 16 research centers.


Improving research output

Though DLSU has a decent lead from other universities in the country, Graduate Student Council (GSC) convenor Jose Mari Carpena acknowledges the need to increase DLSU’s research output and in turn, that of the Philippines.

“It’s saddening to think that the research output of our country, as a whole, is only equal to one university’s in other countries, so we’re actually pushing for more publications,” he laments.

Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation (VCRI) Dr. Raymond Girard Tan affirms this goal, mentioning DLSU’s role as a leading Philippine university.

Amidst the 2015 ASEAN integration, he elaborates, “One of the things that we’re trying to do as an institution is to benchmark with the rest of ASEAN. What we’re trying to do is to ensure that the Philippines will not get left behind.”

Currently, DLSU research centers are primarily funded through external grants from agencies such as Australian Agency for International Development, United States Agency for International Development, and local government agencies. These centers may apply for additional administrative grants from the University Research Coordination Office.

Graduate students have the option to avail of P3,000 grants through the GSC Advanced Studies and Research Office. Additional grants could be given, but it will depend on the grantee’s college’s discretion.

Faculty members may “deload” teaching units per term in order to cope with their research requirements. Faculty can earn an equivalent amount of research units per publication they produce and the pressure of producing research is high since faculty promotion also depends on the number of publication authored by a professor. There are sanctions for not fulfilling research quotas through rendering equivalent teaching units.


Deviating from the pure type

According to a previous interview in The LaSallian’s February 2014 issue, institutes like the Center for Engineering and Sustainable Development Research (CESDR) can produce applied research, which differs from pure scholarly research papers. Applied research involves practical applications of the research topic, while pure research deals with theories, knowledge of a certain phenomenon being studied.

In the aforementioned interview, CESDR Director Jose Bienvenido Manuel Biona explains that CESDR has done applied research, such as floatation devices, in the past. Few of these designs — reported approximately 20 percent — are ventured into the market.

Biona mentions that DLSU used to place much premium on paper publications. Up to a couple of years ago, the VCRI may encourage faculty to venture into more applied researches.

Chemistry professor Dr. Eric Punzalan shares that he was part of a research group abroad, and was fully funded by the institute sponsoring the group. He suggests how the University should provide more of these opportunities as well. On the other hand, Ms. Marylou Uy of the Engineering Department, though not a member of any research institute, says that she can share her knowledge on her field through research advisory.


Interdisciplinary thrusts

Recently, DLSU has been catering to flexible, interdisciplinary directions for research outputs and centers. “In terms of research, there are a couple of buildings which will be ready by summer 2015. It will house many of the Science and Engineering Labs,” Tan shares, referring to the DLSU Science and Technology Complex (DLSU-STC). He cites DLSU-STC’s strategic proximity to the Laguna Technopark.

Carpena states that the GSC has fresh initiatives to foster graduate student research collaboration between the different DLSU colleges. The objective is to form graduate student interdisciplinary research teams and create outputs between different disciplines. In similar accommodation, the VCRI is accommodating flexible research groups for faculty members and researchers.

“One of the experiments we’re doing now, specifically at the College of Science, is the scheme for ‘self organization’,” explains Tan. “The scheme allows us to have research groups that are across disciplines. You can have research projects in which a biologist works with an economist.”

Other efforts include themed research groups. These would last longer than project groups, but are less permanent than research institutes, furthers Tan.


Hopeful figures

Asked about DLSU research statistics and quotas, Tan reports, “Our statistics are approximately 1,200 cumulative publications. For the past five years, we’ve been at around 100 to 120 publications every [calendar] year…We’ve set a quota for the University to hit 200 [publication] per year by 2020.”

For Carpena, the GSC is hoping that their initiatives will result in graduate students publishing at least 1 paper after a year; ideally 5.

Granted these new directions, good research doesn’t just depend on the number of research centers or purely on citation numbers. It also depends on how new knowledge is fed into academic curricula and applied in practice, while staying relevant to Philippine’s national contexts.

“Citations and publications are one of the biggest things if you’re an academic, but it’s your impact to society that makes your research important,” concludes Carpena.


With reports from Kim Ho Jae

Iliana Tan

By Iliana Tan

Michelle Sta Romana

By Michelle Sta Romana

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