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NRCP Executive Director Dr. Marieta Bañez Sumagaysay graces the annual assembly of the Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society in Social Sciences at the UP Film Center, held last Monday, 16 May 2016. (Photo by George Robert E. Valencia III, S&T Media Service, DOST-NRCP)

The Executive Director of the National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP), Dr. Marieta Bañez Sumagaysay, graced the annual induction of new members of the Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society of the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman last Monday, 16 May 2016. The Society is composed of top students in the various fields of social science, and is helmed by governing officers respected in their fields as academics, researchers, and educators.

A full-fledged social scientist with expertise in Economics, Dr. Sumagaysay is a Pi Gamma Mu member since 1981, the year she graduated as the first magna cum laude of UP Visayas Tacloban College. She later served as dean of the College prior to her secondment as the 12th Executive Director of NRCP.

In her keynote speech, Dr. Sumagaysay highlighted the role of social science in inclusive and sustainable development, as the discipline complements and helps make sense or interpret the “immeasurable human dimension” not tackled by the natural and technical sciences.

Yet the challenge now is to raise the engagement of social scientists in today’s knowledge-based economies, she said.

Highlighting the role of research, she also shared her own insights through her experience in rural communities in the Visayas; particularly, experiences of Yolanda (Haiyan)-stricken communities with respect to their grasp of hazards warnings; the resilience of women fishers in coastal areas of Samar and Leyte; and the delivery of basic barangay services in relation to gender and specific needs, among others.

The Role of Social Scientists
According to the executive director, literatures indicate that the social scientist does more than the know-what, know-why, and know-how types of knowledge.  The social scientist deals with the know-who.

“This is one aspect that the hard sciences do not do inside their four-walled laboratories. The social scientist’s laboratory is the whole community. His lens is not the microscope but the bird’s eye while on flight.”

She added, “[T]he social scientist claims his rightful place beyond the technologies and scientific innovations developed [and] looks at impacts and effects on the users of the knowledge generated.”

She also said today’s knowledge economies essentially put premium on three basic ingredients: the translation of research results (or knowledge generated) mainly through scientific publications, copyrights, and patents; knowledge brokerage or the efficient management or transfer of scientific findings; and onto the eventual knowledge utilization.  Accordingly, policy advisories, for one, aid lawmakers in making scientific and evidence-based policies, through holistic assessment of findings before their roll-out to public or market.

Besides the role of social scientists in innovation and in science and technology development, she also emphasized engaging stakeholders “from the time ideas are conceptualized” until the objectives of “happier and more quality lives” are realized.

“It is about bringing the right collaborative partners to the innovations so as to make an impact,” she explained.

The Social Science is scientific
The executive director, however, also bemoaned the still existing narrow perspective of some sectors by citing an instance where, in one forum, she was directly asked “how scientific are social science research findings?”

“I was taken aback that I wanted to collapse. I did not realize that there still exists in a professional gathering a question about the social sciences being scientific or non-scientific. I hope that such tribe remains to be a very small insignificant packet in the knowledge market. Social scientists, it is our duty to educate that tribe,” she told the Pi Gamma Mu inductees.

Dr. Sumagaysay ended her message through a Chinese proverb to remind the inductees on humility.

“Be like the rice plant in the fields. As it grows heavy with its golden grains, the more that it bows to the ground.”

Several inductees and Jubilarians get their photo op with NRCP Executive Director Dr. Sumagaysay (seated 3rd from right) and Officials of the Pi Gamma Mu International Society, Philippine Alpha Chapter after the ceremonies. (Photo by George Robert E. Valencia III, S&T Media Service, DOST-NRCP)

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