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Berlusconi’s plan for universities and research October 2, 2008

Posted by dorigo in news, politics, science.
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Just so you know what is going on in Italy as far as funding for research, fixing the precarious position of young researchers, and politics on instruction and universities are concerned, I paste below a quick-and-dirty summary of a piece by Rino Falcone, from the Osservatorio Ricerca (research observatory).

The politics of Berlusconi and his ministers Tremonti (economy), Brunetta (public affairs), and Gelmini (instruction) on University and Research are determining a future prospect for Italy which is outside of the Lisbon agreement, that is outside the european strategy which identified in knowledge the central pivot point of the new economic and social development.

We report below the list of disastrous actions of the italian government:

1) money to abrogate a tax (called ICI) on the ownership of one’s residency for families with high incomes is coming in part on a reduction by 467 million euros the national funding of Universities (6% of the total, which however can only reduce the compressible expenses like maintenance, metabolism, etc., which is 13% of the total);

2) a law (number 133/08) foresees a reduction to 20% of the turn-over for universities (among 5 retirees, only one new hire) in 2009-2013 with a reduction of funding increasing from 64 million euros in 2009 to 455 million euros in 2013. For research institutes there will be a 20% reduction in 2009.[…]

Adding the cuts to universities from ICI and turn-over, in 2009-2013 there will be a reduction of almost 4 billion euros (5.6 billion dollars).

3) In 133/08 the possibility is given to universities to become private foundations. The risks to the autonomy of teaching, besides to those research fields not palatable on economic grounds, are clear. […]

4) Law 133/08 foresees, even for research institutes, a reduction of personnel by more than 10%. […]

5) finally, and most serious, since it attacks the weakest as well as the most valuable part for an investment in the future, is a combination of articles of the various laws which limits to three years the non-permanent contracts with researchers, in institutions where hiring of permanent personnel is almost non-existent these years.

The picture emerging from the above is quite clear:

– economical cuts which cannot be withstood by the research institutes and universities;

– waste of the most valuable resources for a country: young, talented researchers in science. It is not by chance that everywhere in the world young italians get quickly hired in qualified positions.[…]

I am reminded of a funny cartoon by Gary Larson I saw attached on a wall in the office of my friend Francesco Vianello in Bruxelles:  a symposium with dinosaurs of all kinds, the speaker saying “The picture’s pretty bleak, gentlemen: climates are changing, mammals are taking over, and we all have a brain the size of a walnut”.

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