Looking Ahead with the Philippines

The NAE recognizes the importance of engaging internationally to share knowledge, collaborate, and promote understanding of complex systems thinking to advance the impact of engineering across the globe. This is part of our strategic plan, with a focus on people, systems, and culture.

So I was pleased to accept an invitation to speak at the Philippines’ National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) Forum on Scientific Thinking. The theme of the meeting was FORESIGHT 2050: Science for a Sustainable Future, based on the country’s 30-year science, technology, and innovation foresight and strategic plan.

The plan’s strategy presents goals for inclusive growth, sustainability, and competitiveness in science, technology, and innovation. The intent is to build capital to develop sustainable food systems, educate citizens in science and technical fields, and shore up business, trade, and other areas where development has been scarce.

In my talk I drew on some parallels between the NAST plan and the NAE’s new strategic plan; for example, both focus on people, systems, and culture. The PAGTANAW 2050 plan (“pagtanaw” means “looking ahead” or “foresight”) prioritizes the people of the Philippines, so its goals are designed to be inclusive, foster capability, and consider the perspectives of multiple stakeholders.

Such strategic goals are inherently complex and therefore depend on a systems thinking approach. The combination of knowledge of the available analytic tools, an understanding of when each is appropriate, and skill in applying them to practical problems, with input from a diverse group, produces a method that is both mathematical and intuitive.

Both the NAE and NAST strategic plans recognize that optimal solutions to complex problems require diversity of thought. Such input is critical not only for rational and effective decision making but also a systems approach. Individuals of different backgrounds have different perspectives on a problem—and on routes to solutions. Especially in addressing the challenges of inevitable surprises such as natural disasters and pandemics, systems thinking approaches based on simulation, optimization, and multi-objective analyses can be invaluable if local perspectives and knowledge are included.

The global covid-19 pandemic demonstrated both the literally vital role of engineering, which was crucial to both the development and distribution of life-saving vaccines, personal protective equipment and diagnostics, and the necessity of international cooperation. The strategic plans of the NAE and NAST build on these strengths in charting the future of our organizations and their important contributions to the prosperity of our nations.

The Philippines overarching goal for a “blue economy” points to the sustainable use of marine resources to improve lives, and follows on with goals to fully realize the promises of digital technologies, to develop sustainable food systems, enhance space based exploration, and governance, business and trade, roads, transportation and infrastructure, and science education and establish a better track record for research and development.

“The goal of the STI Roadmap is for the Philippines to eventually become a Prosperous, Archipelagic, Maritime Nation characterized by a society that is inclusive, productive, sustainable, educated, and healthy.”

The Philippines is working toward a shared goal for its country to encourage growth and also to compete in science, technology and innovation—an admirable goal. 

I would like to acknowledge Dr. Jose B. Cruz, former dean of engineering and professor emeritus, the Ohio State University (retired), and Dr. Bindu N. Lohani, vice president, Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development, Asian Development Bank, Mandaluyong City, Philippines, who are members of the NAE and the NAST Philippines.

Watch John L. Anderson's speech at the Philippines’ National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) Forum on Scientific Thinking