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Italians put science chief on the spot

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  • Luciano Dondero
    Nature Italians put science chief on the spot National Research Council faces mounting protests. Alison Abbott Italian scientists are pressuring the president
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 29, 2006
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      Nature

      Italians put science chief on the spot
      National Research Council faces mounting protests.

      Alison Abbott

      Italian scientists are pressuring the president of the National Research
      Council (CNR) to justify his plans for reforming the agency - and to come
      clean about his academic background.
      Up to 1,000 scientists from across Italy are expected to gather in Rome on
      30 March to demonstrate over their unhappiness with the CNR's management
      team - installed by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government two years
      ago. The council runs almost 100 of Italy's research institutes.
      "We are particularly concerned about the administrative council's plans to
      restructure the CNR's institutes, merging them into 67 entities - based only
      on bureaucratic not scientific considerations," says Rino Falcone of the CNR
      Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technology in Rome.
      Falcone helped to organize the march following a report in Nature earlier
      this month that described researchers' increasingly public dissatisfaction
      with the government's science policy (see Nature 440, 264-265; 2006).
      The Nature article also reported that CNR president Fabio Pistella had
      supported his candidature for the presidency with a CV claiming 150
      publications. Only three have been identified by Thomson ISI searches, but
      Pistella retorted that his role required only "management skills". On 21
      March, 39 of Italy's most highly cited scientists sent an open letter to
      Pistella claiming that this response to the "serious" charge "did not fit
      the dignity" of his function as CNR president.
      The letter also accuses Pistella of having helped cause the decline of
      Italy's energy and environment agency - which he headed before joining the
      CNR. It asks him to clarify the criteria for his proposed restructuring of
      the CNR so as to prevent it from suffering the same fate as the energy
      agency.
      Finally, the letter challenges Pistella to reveal the details of his
      scientific publications. "We believe this is the only way to restore a
      relationship of trust and dialogue with the entire national and
      international scientific community," it says. Pistella has responded with a
      promise to publish his full reference list on the CNR website. But he had
      not done so by the time Nature went to press.

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