The award was created on December 16, 1976 by President Ferdinand Marcos through Presidential Decree Nos. 1003 and 1003-A, which also created the National Academy of Science and Technology. For the purposes of the law, a scientist is defined as “an individual who has earned a doctoral degree in any field of the sciences” and “has demonstrated and earned distinction in independent research or significant innovative achievement in the basic and applied sciences, including agricultural, engineering, and medical sciences, in mathematics and in the social sciences as manifested by [published] works in recognized scientific and technical journals.” 
Nomination and selection
It is the Academy, which is composed of Filipino scientists, which is empowered to recommend not more than 10 scientists annually to the President of the Philippines for conferment of the rank of National Scientist. It is the President of the Philippines who makes the ultimate selection, which is based on “distinguished individual or collaborative achievement in science and technology.”
Since 1978, there have been 32 national scientists in the roster. The most recent conferment was made to honor Raul Fabella and Fr. Bienvenido Nebres.
Awardees are conferred the rank and title of “National Scientist”, with an accompanying medallion and citation. They are also given a financial gratuity with the amount determined by the National Academy. In addition, they are entitled to the same privileges enjoyed by National Artists of the Philippines, which include a monthly life pension, medical and hospitalization benefits, and a place of honor, in line with protocular precedence, at national state functions. They are likewise by law entitled upon death to a state funeral conducted by the National Academy and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, befitting their recognized status as heroes of the Philippines.