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The program of the new Italian ministry of Research

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In view of the February 2013 elections, the Gruppo 2003 asked the politicians who were candidates as leaders for our Country to respond to a a series of questions organized in ten points. On each of these points the Gruppo 2003 has its own proposal.

Amongst those who, prior to the elections, replied to the Gruppo 2003's questions is Maria Chiara Carrozza, who was the Scuola Sant’Anna of Pisa chancellor. She was the director of the University and Research Forum of the Democratic Party (PD) and recently has become the new Minister of Education, Universities and Research (MIUR).

Maria Chiara Carrozza's replies, which were given, we wish to repeat, prior to the elections along with Marco Meloni, who is the director for the University and Research sector for the PD, were published in Scienzainrete on the 25 January 2013 and they are very articulate. We think therefore that it is possible and useful to carry out both a comparative analysis between the Gruppo 2003 proposals and those that the new Minister agreed upon, and to outline a map in order to monitor how the new MIUR Director will carry out the government program after receiving the Italian citizen's votes.

         1. Investments in research. The Gruppo 2003 would like to highlight how Italian investments in research and development (R&S), are roughly 1% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which are decisively less than the European and World averages (both at roughly 2% of the GDP). In order to reduce this historical gap which, in an economic and knowledge society, creates difficulties not just for the Italian scientific community, but for the entire country, the Gruppo 2003 suggests the new government should pledge to increase investments by 20% annually for the next 3 years.  

In her electoral campaign Maria Chiara Carrozza stated that an increase in investments is a vital issue. And that the country must change its cutting policies course (more than 5% in recent years). There is a need to change to a policy of an increase in investments with the objective of equaling the European average. Nevertheless she did not take on any quantitative commitments. «In order to provide precise figures – she states in her document – we need to know the exact details of the public financial compatibility and we need to plan government intervention on the entire system. This needs to be done by implementing study and definition processes and action plans which will be our task in the first three months of government».

Therefore within the next three months we expect the Minister to provide us with «exact figures» of the increase in resources after the Prime Minister, Enrico Letta, reassured everyone that there would be no further cuts in research. Otherwise he would resign.

         2. Evaluation and rewards. The Gruppo 2003 believes that the public funds for Universities and research should not be handed out indiscriminately. They should take into account merit. Merit should be evaluated and the best should be awarded. For example, the University (FFO) Ordinary Financing Fund should be awarded based on merit, which at the moment is only 10%.

Maria Chiara Carrozza, stated that the the FFO should reach, based on a series of objective parameters – such as the number of students and the evaluation of teaching and research – a level in line with the system's cohesion. However, in order to do this the University investments need to increase above the mere survival level. At the moment at least 90% of the FFO funds are needed to pay wages and other incompressible expenses. In order to seriously begin awarding merit we need to go   beyond the mere survival level.

         3. International Competitiveness and Rewarding The Gruppo 2003 is suggesting we follow the example of other countries (such as Germany, France, Great Britain and China) and select a small number of universities (about ten) and place them in the condition to compete with the world's best in research and teaching.

Maria Chiara Carrozza has not made any specific commitments on this particular point. She states, more generically, that we must enhance the university's autonomy, stimulate the specializations and improve management.

         4. Control room. The Gruppo 2003 has been proposing for some time to go beyond the fragmentation of the R&S politics in Italy and to create a National Research Agency.

Maria Chiara Carrozza suggests something similar, a research Programming Agency which is similar to the European Research Council as far as organization and expenditure is concerned.

         5. Traps and Snares. The Gruppo 2003 is asking for a drastic reduction in bureaucracy in the University and Research sector.

Maria Chiara Carrozza substantially agrees.

         6. The legal value Educational qualification. The Gruppo 2003 is suggesting to abolish it in order to encourage competition amongst the universities. Today a degree has the same legal value regardless of the quality of the university where the degree was earned. This encourages universities to give priority to quantity.

Maria Chiara Carrozza is against abolishing the legal value of the degree qualification because it could become a factor of a further reduction in the right to study in Italy. However the new Minister is proposing a less distorted approach to the legal value of a degree in the Public Administration.

         7. Appeal and Getting the Intelligent People to come Back. The Gruppo 2003 is asking to implement specific measures both favoring the return to Italy of many young researchers which find better working opportunities abroad and to encourage young foreign researchers to come to Italy. This today is not possible because of the painstaking bureaucracy.

Maria Chiara Carrozza agrees.

         8. Industrial Research and Technology Transfer. The Gruppo 2003 believes that one of the strategic factors is to solve the problem of the scarce research carried out by industries in our country. But it also believes that it is essential to improve the transfer system of knowledge from the research centers to the production centers.

The new Minister substantially agrees. And suggests to:

a) create « 'intelligent' support for companies in the formation-research-work circuit (with an entry and recruitment path aimed at industries which is co-financed by the State and Regions in decreasing percentages during the course of the three years of professional training)»;

b) introduce «industrial research programs to stimulate private investments, along with a tax exemption for research and relevant equipment, and stimulate the recruitment of qualified research doctors in companies»;

c) evaluate ex post industrial research carried out with public funds;

d) improve transparency with reference to the relationship between the university and the industry which is currently being seen by both parties for utilitarian purposes and not for its final result».

         9. Young people, Capable and Deserving. The Gruppo 2003 is asking for new resources and incentives to help young people become part of research centers, based solely on merit-related criteria by applying the standard international rules.

Maria Chiara Carrozza's proposal is quite articulated. It is based on overcoming the existing turnover limits; eliminating the «rules which favor career progression rather than new recruitment»; the fight against temporary employment and the creation of a single contract; a real 'tenure track' and only one teaching role articulated in sections.

         10. The Culture of Science and Research. The Gruppo 2003 believes that it is decisive to re-establish the scientific culture of this country, by focusing in particular on young people.

Maria Chiara Carrozza agrees. She argues that it is necessary to break down the interdisciplinary barriers, to train young people both on notions and the scientific methods and to allow the country to be aware that science has a cultural value, but that «science and research are the essential base of the country's competitiveness».    

Today Maria Chiara Carrozza, a scientist who has gotten into politics (Minister of Education and Research) has the possibility to change these program commitments, some of which are quite similar to the Gruppo 2003's proposals, and others are different nevertheless concrete. We are certain that her commitment will be the utmost, because the new Minister is fully aware that «science and research are the essential basis for the country's competitiveness».    

It is for this reason that we expect a lot from her and we send her our best wishes in her new position.

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