Tag Archives: excellence

How to balance a European research ecosystem with its national parts

Researchers across France, Spain and Italy are orchestrating a wave of national protests, which will culminate on the 17th and 18th October 2014 in their respective capitals. Their objective is to highlight how Europe’s knowledge economy is being undermined by a lack of investment in research, amongst other factors. European national research systems are struggling; that much is beyond doubt. The question is how to balance national versus EU research support and how the EU can drive rehabilitation of national research systems. Another question is whether the increased focus on excellence-based funding is really necessary. This debate is now fully open. Read more [...]

Italian scientists protest against budget cuts, crocodile tears included

In the successful Italian comedy, Smetto quando voglio (I can quit whenever I want), a group of young and talented scholars with no career perspective turns into a successful drug-dealing mob. The story is imaginary—a surreal rendition of Breaking Bad—but it is also the portrait of Italian academia. There, the shortage of funds, baronies, and scant meritocracy hamper the careers of many endowed scientists. This fiction is not that far from reality. Now, as an attempt to change their working conditions, Italian researchers are planning a protest movement in October, to take a stand against budget cuts and political apathy. There is no doubt that such movement is justified, but there is also a need for academics to run their universities better. Read more [...]

For the sake of Italian science and culture

Italian scientific research and university systems are in a dramatic position. The poisonous fruit of the recently approved university reform—referred to as the Gelmini law— assisted by the actions of successive governments, are reaching their goal: downsizing the university system and introducing a political control, never attempted before, on basic research. Now a vast movement of researchers across Europe is organising a series of initiatives during the autumn with the aim of bringing research and innovation to the public attention and at the centre of governments’ action. Read more [...]

Towards research excellence rather than excellence itself

Last April, leading researchers, politicians and key players in European research funding discussed how Europe can finance and provide optimal conditions for excellent research. They adopted the so-called “Aarhus Declaration” which states that “when aiming for excellence, one should aim at the stars: a new knowledge which changes paradigms, invents new fields and opens opportunities for broad societal consequences.” Increasingly, European Union and national funding is anchored around the idea of excellence in research. But what exactly is excellence? Is this yardstick a fair measure of a scientist’s work? Questions are being raised about whether this distorts the research landscape in Europe. Read more [...]