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Permanent… No, wait. In 2009. If. December 7, 2007

Posted by dorigo in news, personal, physics, politics, science.

The italian way. How else to define the regularization process that is going to take place inside INFN in the forthcoming months ?

INFN suffered in the past four years from a blockade of the hiring process of new personnel with permanent positions. People who had won a selection to become a researcher, a technician, or an accountant were put in stand-by, in a kind of limbo. There simply were no funds to hire the new personnel. Berlusconi’s government had cut funds to research and the result was a total freezing of the institute.

At the end of 2005, something started moving again. A big selection of national scope was called for researcher positions. In particle physics, 25 people were selected with a tough exam in Rome -among them, yours truly. They were hired with a 5-year contract and the promise that the position would become permanent without the need of passing a further selection. So these were temporary positions which would become permanent. Indeed, one year after the selection, the new government now led by Prodi’s center-left coalition gave more funds to INFN, and the institute started a procedure to “stabilize” the selection winners, i.e. hire them permanently: but, to make things just a bit more interesting, they inserted the clause that they had to total three years of service before being eligible.

Now, italian bureaucracy is a perfect case study for Murphy’s law: anything that can go wrong usually will. So the new procedure started by INFN looked to the eyes of the least gullible observers like a necessary but by no means sufficient step toward the coveted permanent position. After a few more months, it now transpires that INFN has more funds than they expected to a few months ago. They could make the winners of the 2005 selection permanent, but this could be seen as a undue favor to few. The outsiders -those who did not win the 2005 selection, or who were distracted by other obligations then, would question the procedure, having no chance to get hired themselves.

So instead, what will INFN choose to do ? They will call a new selection for immediate hiring of permanent researchers, and give a large bonus  in points to the winners of the 2005 selection. These poor souls, once assured that they would never have to pass a selection to get a permanent position, have to get on theory books again, and pass yet one more exam. Or, they could abstain from participating, in the faith that INFN already promised to hire them permanently upon completing three years of service…

Nobody will choose the second course of action, for fear that INFN changes rules yet over again, or that funds disappear, that Prodi’s government falls and the new premier votes some law freezing INFN hiring again. So that proves that really, life is a continuous exam… And it also shows that Italy is a really funny country.



1. Andrea Giammanco - December 7, 2007

I didn’t dare to say it, at the time, but when you wrote that post announcing your imminent regularization, I immediately thought about that old popular advice of never selling the skin of the bear before having actually shot him…
My experience is short, but I already learnt that one can not relax (especially in Italy) until the contract is engraved in stone 😉

2. Andrea Giammanco - December 7, 2007

By the way, a not-so-uninterested question: are there already rumors about WHEN will this new selection be?
It had been promised for 2006, then for the beginning of 2007, then for fall 2007, then…

3. Amara - December 8, 2007

INAF has the same. My formal selection to be permanent in the INAF stabilization process (and there is an exam as well) was announced the day before I picked up the plane (three weeks ago) to move to Boulder and start my new position at Southwest Research Institute. The salary would be no different (unlivable in Rome without an Italian family), resources such as computers are not automatically covered and travel expenses are only irregularly covered and reimbursed >4 months later. The same as what I experienced since 2003, in other words. I understand (well) that such an offer is the dream of every Italian researcher, but I graciously (and politely I thought) said ‘no thank’ you’ to INAF. The serendipitious events that occurred during my move and in the two weeks after made me wonder if I was being smitten from some metaphysical entity for saying ‘no’. But I’m here and healthy and I have a bright future so I’m doing my best to forget the last month (and some portions of the last years). Good luck to you, Tommaso, and best wishes for your physical recovery for your surgery, as well.

4. Fred - December 8, 2007


So, what is your official status as of this moment? Was there a pending or potential lawsuit that forced them to alter the procedures? I blame the marxists. lol

5. dorigo - December 8, 2007

Andrea, you could well have spoken then… I do not give too much importance to the fact that I am not permanent yet, because what matters to me is being able to do what I do. Although admittedly it bothers me that my rights are limited because of the non-permanent status, like, for instance, I cannot vote in the “consiglio di sezione”.
Since I know that I will not be left unemployed, I do not care much anyway.

As for the next selection, I think it is very close, maybe next March. INFN has to act quickly if they want to avoid funds disappearance.

Amara, thanks, and… I think you did the right thing!

Fred, my official status is “5-year contract, ending 20-dec-2010”, with a statement by INFN that my position will be maintained until I am regularized (i.e. hired permanently).

Cheers all,

6. goffredo - December 8, 2007

Hi guys
never forget that decisions are made by human beings with names. These people should be confronted and made accountable for their decisions.

7. dorigo - December 8, 2007

True Goffredo, however I think that INFN does not have a complete freedom to decide how to use their funds. I believe they could, if they really wanted, hire the selection winners permanently, although it would cause them some trouble. So in some sense personal responsibilities are there.


8. goffredo - December 8, 2007

I think they could but they just want to avoid trouble. But what about the trouble they cause?

9. mauro - December 12, 2007

Well, Italy is a funny country indeed, and frustrating too.
This is why a left in 1995 and landed in Vancouver.

10. dorigo - December 12, 2007

I was about to remain in the US in 2000, but then got back to Italy despite the new salary was three times lower… But I do not complain, the choices are mostly driven by personal issues. Good for you if you found in Vancouver what you were looking for…


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