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SERP-P, MinDA strengthen partnership, conduct database management orientation

Twenty-eight representatives from 18 higher education institutions (HEIs) in Mindanao participated in the Socioeconomic Research Portal for the Philippines (SERP-P) Orientation on Database Management on September 3, 2015, in Davao City. These HEIs are network members of the Mindanao Knowledge Center (MKC), a flagship program of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA).

In his opening message, Mr. Reyzaldy Tan, Director for Policy, Planning, and Project Development of MinDA, stressed the importance of the partnership between SERP-P and MinDA to develop the MKC portal as the "leading resource of policy researches and experts on Mindanao and to share research studies among academic institutions, government agencies, and international organizations". He added that MKC can serve as a platform to lobby new policies and prevent overlap in research. Moreover, Tan emphasized that MKC may provide creative means to do research through collaboration and networking with other institutions (public and private, local and international) that have enough resources.

Dr. Sheila Siar and Mark Vincent Aranas, program manager and coordinator of SERP-P (, respectively, then talked about the program and how it can serve as a model for MinDA's MKC.

In her presentation, Siar gave a quick overview of the concepts of knowledge commons and open access revolution. "Knowledge as a commons should be shared and be easily accessible, but it should also be protected," said Siar. She added that without proper management, knowledge can be misused.

Siar then discussed the history of SERP-P as the first electronic repository of policy research and information in the Philippines that capitalizes on research networking. The SERP-P project was started by state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) in year 2000. It was formally launched in 2002 during the Institute's 25th founding anniversary. The establishment of the portal in the 2000s reflects the beginning of the "open access movement", a worldwide campaign initiated by the Open Society Institute that advocates for open access to research literature, Siar related.

Through SERP-P, Siar said that PIDS fulfills its mandate to promote evidence-based policymaking by making the results of its research studies and those conducted by other agencies and institutions accessible not only to decisionmakers but also to the general public. She noted that SERP-P can be a tool for its member-institutions, such as MinDA, to widen their reach.

The orientation also involved showcasing the developments on SERP-P over the last 13 years. According to Aranas, the portal has grown from a simple database for PIDS materials to an established knowledge exchange mechanism of 53 member-institutions. "SERP-P now has over 5,500 research materials from more than 2,800 authors," added Aranas.

Because SERP-P will serve as a model for MinDA's MKC portal, Aranas also demonstrated among the staff and research partners of MinDA its content management system (CMS). According to Aranas, the CMS was designed to give access to its member-institutions to share their own materials through SERP-P.

The SERP-P CMS gained positive response from the participants. According to Dr. Alexander Campaner, MinDA's consultant for the MKC portal, MKC will serve as the SERP-P in Mindanao. He also shared possible innovations that MKC will provide, such as the profiling of local government units in Mindanao through the extension activities of its member HEIs. Through this mechanism, Campaner said that gaps in Mindanao-related researches, particularly in agricultural development, can be addressed. "We have to identify the gaps in terms of research. Collaborative work is the key," he added.

During the open forum, Undersecretary Janet Lopoz, Executive Director of MinDA, underscored that to prepare Mindanao for the ASEAN Economic Community, it needs to increase its competitiveness. "One way to do it is through research and development. Our engagement with the PIDS [through SERP-P] is one of the many things that we can do to improve our knowledge economy," she explained.

The database management orientation, which was jointly organized by PIDS and MinDA, was participated by the following HEIs: Agusan del Sur College of Agriculture and Technology, Ateneo de Davao University, Ateneo de Zamboanga University, Bukidnon State University, Caraga State University, Central Mindanao University, Cotabato City State Polytechnic College, Davao del Norte State College, Jose Rizal Memorial State University, Southern Philippines Agri-business and Marine and Aquatic School of Technology, Sultan Kudarat State University, Surigao State University, University of Mindanao, University of the Philippines-Mindanao, University of Southeastern Philippines, University of Southern Mindanao, Western Mindanao State University, and Zamboanga State College of Marine Sciences and Technology.

It served as a prologue to the 1st Mindanao Policy Research Forum on September 4 at the Waterfront Insular Davao. This whole-day event, which centered on the theme "Advancing Mindanao: Toward Sustainable Economic Development and Balanced Ecosystems", gathered close to 100 participants from various public and private sectors in Mindanao, including government, business, civil society, and the media. The forum featured the signing of the memorandum of understanding that formalized the institutional partnership of MinDA and PIDS in the conduct of policy research and knowledge-sharing activities in support of Mindanao's development.

A press conference was also held to mark the celebration of the 13th Development Policy Research Month (DPRM), which is celebrated across the country every September to promote public awareness and consciousness of the importance of policy research in nation-building. It was followed by a plenary session wherein research studies on ecotourism and payment for ecosystem services were presented by researchers from PIDS and HEIs in Mindanao, respectively. (Mark Vincent Aranas)