Investing in knowledge to give our Country a future

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On April 29 2013, Barack Obama left his busy political agenda to go to speak to the members of the National Academy of Science (NAS) at their annual meeting. He went there after being reelected to remind them that the President of the United Sates is well aware that science and technology are extremely important for America and he wanted to personally pass on this message, highlighting that in a moment of serious economic difficulty the country cannot cut research investment funds, because it is innovation which gives energy (powers) to the economy and security to the nation.

In Italy too we have a new government which, like its predecessors, will have to tackle an unprecedented economic crisis and ask Italians for sacrifices. A way to tackle these sacrifices more serenely could be to guarantee the citizens that the sacrifices will also be needed to invest and create a future for the country, a future for their children. The most important investment a modern country can undertake for its future is in education, science, technology, engineering and mathematics, in order to create the right environment that will favor new discoveries and create, for example, innovative products that can help the economy and improve the quality of life.

Today we live in a world that is based on knowledge, which is the strategic resource that is necessary for prospering, by educating people in forming their ideas. The global competition is no longer in the manufacturing industry or in commerce. It is in developing and recruiting the best people, that are the the most intellectually rich and brilliant in the world. We can call it human capital.
In the 21st century, the real challenge amongst countries is recruiting the most intelligent people, creating the right environment that will attract these people, environments where they can express themselves to their fullest, where they can be competitive at a world level. Unfortunately, our country is going through a tragic period because the vast majority of our young university graduates are not finding working opportunities and, as a result, are immigrating. At the same time we are unable to attract brainy people from other countries. For the same reason: the young Italians are leaving and the foreign ones aren't coming to Italy because the working conditions here don't allow one to work well, to express one's capabilities and to be competitive. We therefore believe it is imperative for our government to create the conditions so that our young scholars can work in Italy at high levels and that the conditions are such that young talents from other countries are attracted by our country.

A clear example of this is ENEA, the Italian Institution for energy research - where Fermi and Rubbia come from - which in the 80s had a budget of 972 million Euros and today only 152. In the meantime, our schools continued to form talented people who then left the country. Going to the CERN in Geneva would allow to note that 20% of the scientists in key positions are Italian, as much as the person who announced the discovery of the Higgs boson (Fabiola Gianotti). Italy has become completely dependent on imported energy, which is often generated by foreign countries thanks to Italians, who we invested in and educated, without offering them any career possibility. The ENEA example in the energy sector can be seen in many other sectors: another one is that of the pharmaceutical sector, where we lost research capabilities and we are now importing medicines, often invented by Italians who work in other countries; and let's not talk about the material and ecological sectors...

We therefore ask that the new Prime Minister and the new government acknowledge the fact that education, science and technology are vital for the future of our country and that they are the only investment that can pay off in the medium and long term. We hope they are ready to invest in creating excellence centers that are capable of withholding and attracting talented people, both Italians and foreigners.

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Europe health saved by welfare

Peace Love Doctor, Bansky. Credit: Thomas Hawk / Flickr. Licenza: CC BY-NC 2.0.

Mortality trends in Europe have been decreasing in recent years, differently from what happened in the United States with the rise in the so-called “deaths of despair” among low educated middle-aged white Americans. Most of all, such trends in Europe show no interruptions due to the economic crisis. This is the conclusion of a study published on PNAS by LIFEPATH, a project funded by the European Commission, which investigates the biological pathways underlying social differences in healthy ageing.