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President Obama speaks to DoE employees – live now! February 5, 2009

Posted by dorigo in news, physics, politics.
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You can hear him at this site.

UPDATE:  shoot, I just missed him. I was hoping in a small delay, because I was late from a meeting, but it appears the speech was on time. I hope the audio will be made available offline… If you know a link to it, please post it in the comments thread below!

The University of Padova disagrees with… November 10, 2008

Posted by dorigo in internet, news, personal, politics, science.
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Here is an excerpt from a letter sent by the Rector of the University of Padova, Vincenzo Milanesi, to Padova students and their families:

The University of Padova […] strongly disagrees with legislations which threaten to demolish our University system, which cut funds with an ax in a mass decapitation […]

( translated from the letter of the Rettore of the University of Padova:
lettera_studenti_famiglie.pdf )

Original version:

L’Universita’ di Padova […] è decisamente in disaccordo con i provvedimenti legislativi che rischiano di demolire il nostro sistema universitario, che tagliano i fondi con la mannaia in una decapitazione di massa […]

(dalla lettera del Rettore dell’Universita’ di Padova:

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”.

US science supporters: your action is needed NOW September 25, 2008

Posted by dorigo in news, physics, politics, science.
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I receive a message being forwarded to APS members, and pass it on to you, in case you are willing to contribute to a just cause with an email to your Senator of choice:

I am writing to request that you IMMEDIATELY contact your elected representatives and let them know that the proposed Continuing Resolution for Fiscal Year 2009 would be extremely damaging to basic research.  You can make this contact quickly and easily at this link.

There, you will find pre-written messages to your Senators and Representatives. You may send these letters as they are, modify them, or write your own.  While individualizing your letter is not essential, please at least make minor edits to the subject line and the first line of the text of each email so that these emails are more individualized.  (See webpage pointers below for further instruction.)

Congress has not passed any FY 2009 appropriations bills and is now finalizing a Continuing Resolution (CR) that will keep the government operating when the new fiscal year begins on October 1, 2008.  The House is expected to consider the bill on Thursday or Friday of this week.  The CR, according to the latest information, will remain in effect until March 6, 2009 and would keep all federal programs operating at FY 2008 levels, except those granted waivers.  At this time, science is not on the waiver list, and the proposed bill would not include any of the science increases contained in the Supplemental Appropriations bill Congress passed earlier this year. Unless science receives a waiver, the impact will be extraordinarily damaging.


  • Department of Energy user facilities would be forced to cut back operations substantially;
  • A new round of layoffs at the national laboratories could occur;
  • The number of university grants would be cut, with new, young investigators especially harmed; and
  • The U.S. would be forced to cut to near zero its planned contributions to the global fusion energy project, ITER, damaging the nation’s ability to participate in future international scientific collaborations.

The attached letter would request that Congress include the funding increases approved by Congress earlier this year in the FY08 Supplemental Appropriations bill for the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and to allow the DOE to use the $124 million in FY 08 Office of Science earmarks for programmatic purposes.

(1) While individualizing your letter is not essential, we ask that you make minor edits to the subject line and the first line of the text of each email.

(2) If you are a government employee, please do not use government resources to send a communication.

(3) Your browser will take you to a page where you will enter your name and address.

(4) After entering your address, click the .Edit/Send Email button.. A window with an individual email message to the four offices will appear. Click .Send Emails. to transmit the communication.

(5) Electronic submission is preferred.

(6) For further help, write to opa@aps.org.

Arthur Bienenstock, president, the American Physical Society