Just a week ago we published an appeal to the government to include in the budget law the release of the “Treasury” of 450 million from the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) to be used for basic public research.
We have evidently been overtaken by the events we all know. Yet it is necessary to insist and plead in all possible places the appeal to the Government not to let the research die.
IT CAN BE DONE. The money from the famous treasure is already there. Instead of letting them lie, we strongly demand that they be put to good use!
Valeria Poli, Gennaro Ciliberto, Marco Bianchi
we publish and share the article entitled “My 5 questions to the city of science” released on November 29th. in La Repubblica by Senator Elena Cattaneo, which summarizes some actions to be envisaged to ensure the success of the Human Technopole (HT) project (PDF.) (PDF .).
Considering the positive change of course of the Government towards the management of the Human Technolopole which took place following the numerous and vehement protests from the scientific world, the Italian research of excellence is seriously in danger of dying without the possibility of resurrection, as clearly demonstrated by the ridiculous allocation of funds to PRIN - Research Projects of National Interest (!) which allowed the funding of just 6% of the projects presented, many judged in any case to be excellent(Bando Prin 2015 - Decree of admission to funding; .; Statistics Prin 2015 .).
Minister Giannini made a commitment to distribute part of the "treasury" of 450 million from the Italian Institute of Technology (Iit) to basic public research (see article Giannini, commitment to distribute the IIT 'treasure'. " 'time to think about the possible destination of the funds " . - 17 november, (ANSA) – ROME) . Certainly «good news»: public money already registered in the state budget, dedicated to public research, which after years of useless stocks would finally be available again.
But we have already heard too many words about research, now we need the facts, starting with the budget law under discussion that could / should contain this famous provision.
We therefore join the invitation of Senator Cattaneo to a widespread sharing of the theme and an informed and responsible involvement both of the academy and of the research centers and of the departments concerned, and we invite our members to 1) get informed, 2) get involved in all the possible locations to ensure that words are finally transformed into facts, that is the oxygen necessary for project-based and hypothesis-driven basic research (Elena Cattaneo article .)
Valeria Poli, Gennaro Ciliberto, Marco Bianchi
Good news (with some doubts), and bad news.
The good news: the Government has announced the start of the operational phase of the "Human Technopole" research center (link .); Report of the Hearing of the Minister of Agricultural Policies in relation to "Italia 2040 Human Technopole" (Act no. 827). . with some interesting changes compared to the initial orientation. Some problems remain unresolved, or even created from scratch.
The bad news: few crumbs have been allocated to the so-called research of national interest, the PRIN, so much so that only 6% of the projects presented are financed, often with substantial budget cuts which in most cases will prevent the completion of the project. research as formulated and evaluated. The searches considered excellent were at least 3 times more numerous.
The two news items read together mean that Italy has money for only a third of excellent research, and achievable now, but spends 10 times more on excellent research that at best will be achievable in many years. The government has already transferred 80 million to Arexpo, the owner of the areas, to partially cover the expenses for areas and buildings (but no research for now). In short: public research dies for lack of resources, which resources are committed to creating the containers of research that will no longer exist in a few years if we go forward at this rate.
We argue that we must continue to invest in HT, but that at the same time it is immediately necessary to at least triple the resources allocated to the PRIN in order to be able to finance all research considered excellent and only slightly below the maximum score.
In this regard, we make ours the proposal of the 2003 Group, relaunched by Professor and Senator for life Elena Cattaneo, to immediately use the so-called "Treasury" of 430 million euros made available to the IIT in recent years and remained unspent for reopen the PRINs and finance all projects considered excellent but not funded because they are just below the maximum score.
Valeria Poli, Gennaro Ciliberto, Marco Bianchi
The new course announced by the Government on HT marks, as already underlined by Senator for life Elena Cattaneo in her article in Repubblica (PDF . ), an important change of direction by the Government and by Minister Martina, responsible for the ex- Expo as Minister of Agricultural Policies.
This partial change of course demonstrates how the criticisms leveled at the HT project from various fronts, including the open letter to the Prime Minister signed by the majority of the Italian EMBO members and by many Presidents of Scientific Societies and published (PDF . ), were at least in part received.
In the first place, the management of HT is entrusted to a third party created ad hoc, and no longer to IIT alone. Second, it should be noted that the positions of Scientific Director and Directors of the 7 research centers that will constitute HT will be assigned through an international call. These two fundamental points were advocated in our letter and we welcome them with satisfaction.
However, several critical issues remain: i) the fear that the composition of the Coordination Committee of the new Body, which will see the participation of IIT, the CNR, the Istituto Superiore di Sanità and the Milanese universities, will become a place not to proceed paralyzed by interests partisan and cross vetoes; ii) the composition of the recruitment committee that will have to judge the applications of the aspiring Directors is of primary importance, as underlined in point 3 of our (Open letter from EMBO members.), and should be made explicit as soon as possible and conform to most other international standards. We also ask that the comments of the international reviewers on the original draft drafted by IIT be made public immediately, together with the replies provided.
Both these points must be addressed by the Government by maximizing transparency and communication, to avoid those misunderstandings that have been the cause of conflict and generate trust and collaboration in the scientific community.
Furthermore, as also pointed out by Prof. Cattaneo in her recent article (PDF . ), given the decision to create an ad hoc body, there is no reason to entrust the first two years of management of HT ad interim to IIT.
It was known since the release of the PRIN call that the blanket was not too short, it was practically non-existent. It is unworthy of a modern country that wants to dedicate such small amounts to public research: 92 million in about three years, which allowed the funding of just over 6% of the projects presented, leading to the elimination of at least twice as many classified projects. as excellent.
How can a country that does not finance public research judged to be of excellence, in fact destining it to death by starvation, seriously claim to found a pole of excellence as the HT wants to be on this rubble?
For further information and an analysis of the distribution of PRIN 2015 funds, please refer to the Scienza in Rete website of the 2003 Group for Research:
“Moltiplichiamo x 10 i fondi PRIN” .
“Gli spiccioli dei PRIN 2015 alla ricerca pubblica” .
This is the title of the letter, published in “Il Sole 24 ore” on April 24, 2016, addressed to Prime Minister Matteo Renzi following the heated debate that arose from the announced project of the Human Technopole (HT) research center which should arise in Milan in the ex-EXPO area.
The initiative, coordinated by Valeria Poli and signed by numerous members of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) and Presidents of Scientific Societies operating in Italian universities and research centers, was an opportunity to highlight the need to intervene on the state and the management of research funding in our country.
Numerous subscriptions and comments from our members, who wanted to show their support.
In response to the letter, a delegation composed of Valeria Poli, Anna Tramontano, Jacopo Meldolesi and Marco Bianchi was invited to a meeting with Minister Martina and Dr. Simoni of the Prime Minister, held on May 19, 2016 at the Ministry of Policies. Agricultural.
The Minister particularly appreciated the collaborative spirit with which the salient points of the issue were brought to his attention and the members of the delegation reported a positive impression of the meeting.
In the meantime, other initiatives have taken place aimed at highlighting the shortcomings in funding for public research and the need to establish a Research Agency, as also highlighted in the documents presented to Minister Martina. In particular, the 2003 Group for Scientific Research (group 2003 .), which has been involved for years on this front, organized the conference “Mind the Gap. The funding of research in Italy”, held on 24 June at the Aula Magna of the State University of Milan, the report of which can be read here (Mind the gap, giugno 2016 .). New collaborative initiatives are planned after the summer period.