Sergio Mattarella and Giuseppe Conte from the new Italian Government sitting on two armchairs and discussing

The new Yellow-Green Italian Government

The new Yellow-Green Italian Government

There is a refreshing new tone both in the Italian Parliament and Government. A rejuvenated politics, with a shot of populism generated a government of Parties bitterly opposing until the very last minute.

The new, Yellow-Green Government, known as “Government of change”, is leaded by a coalition between the two Parties: “League” and “Five Stars Movement”; they signed a “Government contract” of about 50 pages and 30 points, which has been presented by the Premier Conti to the Parliament and to the citizens.

Often in the past, we have witnessed a failure to comply with the good intentions and the election promises made by the political players. Such a situation turned the Italian citizens and myself, unwilling to put unconditional trust in both the governments and the affectedly presented and promoted programmes.

Too often we have seen contrasting and disappointing behaviours and outcomes from elected politicians. All this has made us tougher in supporting the leadership that has been elected.

However, it is neither fair turning our back to those people who are trying to bring fresh air to the Italian politics. It is not correct not to pursue the efforts and improve our society from “the bottom up” on the basis of the uselessness of any efforts made to change the actual status quo.

In any case, it is hard to comment on the political objectives at the moment and it would be advisable to await the first concrete steps. What we can do now is to go through the “Government political contract” by mentioning some of the ideas that are included in point 30, on Research:

“In recent years, Italy has stood out in the European context for a constant reduction in investment in our academic and research system. Therefore, we urgently need to enforce a U-turn by implementing resource… as well as redefining their funding criteria[…]

[…]the research world shall be closely involved in the cultural, scientific and technological development of our Country, outlining the objectives to be achieved and better interacting with the whole national system[…]

The recruitment system must be reformed in order to establish a transparent merit-based system which shall be corresponding to the effective scientific and educational demands[…]”

The above comments and commitments on the contract can certainly be endorsed. Anyway, we are eager to see the concrete and possible fast implementation of the above-mentioned declarations.

An aspect I am particularly worried about, is related to the possible support from the new Government to anti-scientific positions. In fact, some members of the leading parties assumed in the past clear positions in favour of pseudo-scientific campaigns. Fortunately, I did not find any reference to that in the contract. Clearly, we all must be careful and ready to stop any anti-scientific propaganda in Italy, and not only in Italy, as well as we must constantly improve scientific dissemination and information to avoid that “pseudo-scientists” can occupy an empty space that science has left.

Human capital and Italian research strategy

Let us have a look on Italian strategies for human resources in research and innovation, that have been taken in the recent years: there are certainly positive and negative points.

It should be acknowledged that the previous government stepped in with a decision and a financial support plan tackling the Italian problem of job insecurity. Important measures are currently in place to implement all the due actions in terms of recruitment and stabilisation.

Such initiative is laudable. However, all the weaknesses of a national system unable to act with medium to long-term plans and strategies consistent with the requirements and excellences of the Country, shall be correctly pointed out. Processes as the ones previously mentioned, are often at the expenses of merit, transparency and excellence, even if such aspects have been demanded by everyone.

We will see if the new Minister of University and Research will have the courage to concretely act in this direction.

Where I must express grave concern is the lack of concrete and convinced actions in improving the attractiveness of talents. Formally, such process has been strongly supported by all Ministries, although it had been eventually stopped by awkward bureaucratic rules.

Years ago, I wrote an article for EuroScientist praising the so-called “direct recruitment” for scientists with “special merits”, promoted by the Italian Government, that obtained – at that time- a considerable outcome. Nowadays, the process is at a complete standstill and it affects the return of highly skilled researchers who are now reconsidering the opportunity to go back to Italy. Such rethink may endanger our innovation and knowledge system.

Taking actions on this point would represent our first call to be addressed to the new Minister.

Trieste European City of Science

In this general uncertain national situation, there is a positive spin which is given by the fact that Italy has been appointed “European City of Science” within the framework of ESOF 2020 and that the important event will take place in the beautiful city of Trieste.

The initiative is positively and enthusiastically supported by all political coalitions and institutions. The expectations and the involvement of both citizens and young people are noteworthy. Preparation of many scientific activities, contacts with enterprises, dissemination actions, involving not only Italian actors, but also many institutions and researchers from Central Europe, are already in full swing, mainly thanks to the strategic geopolitical position of the City of Trieste.

ESOF Motto is “Freedom for Science, Science for Freedom” and it is closely related with the Science Diplomacy strategy run out by many Trieste Scientific Institutions. In particular, in this complicated geopolitical moment, we are active in promoting support to Scientific Refugees as well as to enhance Science Diplomacy actions for human resources in the Mediterranean Region.

But, above all, we start to feel the enthusiastic birth of a new cultural process and of an opening up to the world, which the City of Trieste is experiencing with great enthusiasm.

Featured image credit: Presidenza della Repubblica

Maria Cristina Pedicchio
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