SCINQ Asia: The Philippines tries to coax diaspora scientists into returning

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Another week, another gentle reminder from the American scientific community for the U.S. Government: tread carefully when deciding to place US-based Chinese researchers under surveillance and be even more careful when dismissing them. Jeremy Levin, CEO of Ovid Therapeutics, wrote a letter saying, “Recently, some scientists from China, or American-born of Chinese heritage, have been summarily dismissed from their university positions, creating a climate of fear and uncertainty in our biomedical communities.” More than 150 biotechnology industry leaders signed the letter in support.

India’s space agency continues making strides. The country’s Chandrayaan-2 lunar spacecraft beamed back its first images of the moon’s surface. Safe to say, Earth’s only satellite is as gorgeous as ever.

There’s a lot of ‘firsts’ going around for Asian space programs. Russia has placed its first humanoid robot, named Fedor, into space. Even though he is undeniably good at using guns and shooting targets — there’s video of him playing the action hero — his role on the International Space Station is more modest. He’s there as an artificial cosmonaut for two weeks during which he’ll learn a host of mundane tasks. The ultimate goal is to have a robot capable of undertaking dangerous operations on board or outside of the ISS.

Drug addiction is a global problem. While there are a variety of ways to address the problem, most of which that do not entail extrajudicial killings (Lookin’ at you Philippines…), most entail some form of behavioral modification. Now, a team in Shanghai are taking a different approach called deep brain stimulation. According to Asia Biotech, “The technique, which involves the insertion of electrodes into targeted areas of the brain, has long been used to treat Parkinson’s disease and obsessive-compulsive disorder.” Anything that can solve the drug scourge without harming users is welcome.

Brain drain is a massive problem in the Philippines. It’s been going on for decades as professionals leave the country in order to earn better salaries in other countries. Scientists have been part of this flight. For almost forty years, the country has been trying to coax Filipino scientists back to the country, even for brief stints. In 2018, the Balik Scientist Law was enacted to institutionalize the 40-year-old Balik Scientist Program (BSP). An article in Asian Scientist provides an update on the program. According to the author, “since 2007, 314 scientists were engaged in a short-term capacity, lasting for less than six months at their assigned institutions, while 36 were engaged in long-term projects, lasting for one to three years.” It’s something, to be sure. Hopefully, more scientists will consider staying longer.

IMAGE SOURCE: Creative Commons

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