Nature 452, 685 (10 April 2008) | doi:10.1038/452685b; Published online 9 April 2008
Italy must invest more in science and technology
- Center for Magnetic Resonance, University of Florence, 50019 Sesto Fiorentino (FI), Italy
- Mario Negri Institute, 20157 Milan, Italy
- Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, via Fiorentina 1, 53100 Siena, Italy
Silvio Berlusconi and Walter Veltroni, the leaders of the two major political parties taking part in Italy’s elections on 13 and 14 April, have been debating issues critical for the future of the country’s economy — with one crucial omission. Neither of these has mentioned increasing investment in science, technology and education.
Europe and North America realize that their twentieth-century economies, based on manufacturing industry and commerce, are rapidly disappearing under the pressure of emerging economies and globalization. The economy of the twenty-first century will hinge on investment in science and technology — as the US Congress was advised in a 2007 report by the US National Academies, Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future. The European Union has come out with the Lisbon strategy, intending to become “the most dynamic and competitive knowledge-based economy in the world”, by investing 3% of gross deomestic product in research by 2010 (http://tinyurl.com/59phnh).
Italy is not following the Lisbon strategy and today is one of the European countries investing least in research (less than 1.5% of GDP — in contrast to 3.86% by Sweden, 2.51% by Germany, 2.13% by France and 1.73% by the United Kingdom, for example (Nature 451, 378; doi:10.1038/451378a 2008). Italy has only 2.7 scientists per 1,000 of the population, whereas the European average is five and the US average is six. Without more investment, the Italian economy will certainly suffer, to the detriment of the coming generation.
The sparse attention to science in the Italian election campaign reflects a lamentably low interest in science nationwide. Some believe that the Italian university system is not competitive, so no more money should be spent on it until appropriate reforms have been carried out. But reform will not be possible without a sustained increase in research investment. At present, the research budget covers only staff salaries and there is no scope for encouraging the best scientists with increased funding.
Perhaps the scientific community in Italy has failed to communicate effectively the importance of science in the skilled employment and innovative enterprises that are key to our future prosperity. Nonetheless, our national administrators must take this on board and make investment in research and technology the highest priority”
La tesi di fondo e’ ampiamente accettata: senza invetimenti nel capitale umano, una economia perde competitivita’, produttivita’ ed un paese muore. Ma ogni paese ha anche una sua storia che diventa rilevante quando si devono fare scelte politiche.
La nostra e’ quella delle Ope Legis ameritocratiche nell’Universita’ di inizio anni ’80, di un sistema di finanziamenti che premia cordate di potere e conoscenze, piuttosto che creativita’ , individualismo e merito, di un sistema di reclutamento e promozione feudale che premiano fedelta’ , subalternita’ e mediocrita’ piuttosto che autonomia, spirito critico ed eccellenza. Un sistema del genere perde autorita’ e prestigio e cessa di diventare modello di riferimento per la societa’. Una casta tra le altre caste.
Il problema Italiano e’ far emergere gli individui che possono competere a livello internazionale e marginalizzare chi parassitizza l’universita’ o la rende una proprieta’ personale. Indipendentemente dal possedere o meno “angeli custodi”. Non e’ un problema con semplice soluzione ma e’ un problema che taglia trasversalmente il Paese.
Con la nostra storia, iniettare piu’ soldi nel sistema cosi’ come e’ organizzato ora sarebbe un po’ come bruciare il violino per vendere la cenere.