Simpatica lettera

Posted on novembre 13, 2008 di


Ecco una simpatica lettera che abbiamo inviato come correspondance a “Nature”, e che ovviamente e’ stata rifiutata.

Voglio pubblicarla almeno su questo blog:

SIR – Imagine if the dean of the Medicine faculty would appoint his wife, a former high school teacher of literature, full professor of History of Medicine in his own faculty. Imagine if the same dean would also appoint his own son associate professor in the same faculty. Imagine if the dean’s daughter, a law graduate, would become associate professor of Forensic Medicine, again in the same faculty. Imagine this dean to be elected Rector Magnificus of the whole University with an overwhelming majority of 1788 votes by his fellow professors. Imagine finally this University to be the largest of Europe in number of students, and you will have an idea of what happened last week, with the election of Luigi Frati as the new Rector of “La Sapienza” in Rome.

Unfortunately, this is only the tip of the iceberg of what happens every day in many Italian universities, with the tacit agreement of a relevant majority of the academic staff, as has been convincingly revealed in the recent book “L’Università truccata” of Roberto Perotti.

It is often said, and it is certainly true, that Italy does not invest enough in the R&D sector (only 1.1% of the GDP in 2006 compared to a European average of 1.84% for the same period). With this letter, however, we want to expose a problem of the Italian universities which is subtler, because endemic: the dramatic absence of meritocratic criteria in the selection of the academic staff, with the tacit complicity of those called to vote on these issues. It is in fact not surprising to find so few foreign scientists in a country where “territorial belonging” is more important than scientific soundness, where the rules of the concorsi (Italian public competitions) are tailored on the persons to be chosen, where the winner of a concorso is decided (and known) far in advance and where the best candidates are discouraged to bother the judging commission by competing. The problem is so radical that it paradoxically calls for simple solutions: e.g. allocating funds according to the department’s scientific productivity, making international committees mandatory for the evaluation of the research proposals, introducing a strict regulation of the appointing process to avoid conflicts of interest.

As Italian academicians, living abroad and experiencing how things might work differently, we see it as our moral duty to expose the poor status of our academic system and to trigger an open international debate on possible and reasonable solutions.

Andrea Baldi

Matteo Filippi

Condensed Matter Physics
Department of Physics and Astronomy
Faculty of Sciences
VU University Amsterdam
De Boelelaan 1081
1081 HV Amsterdam, NETHERLANDS

Posted in: Uncategorized