Italian Science Agency Gets Revamp

Science  11 Mar 2005:
Vol. 307, Issue 5715, pp. 1543c
DOI: 10.1126/science.307.5715.1543c

ROME—A sweeping overhaul of Italy's main science funding agency—the National Research Council (CNR)—will give the system “a more structured approach” and align scientists' work with national goals, research minister Letizia Moratti told Science this week. The changes, due to take effect at the end of this month, will group all existing research under 85 “strategic programs.” Scientists say they're concerned that the scheme will favor applied research, especially projects endorsed by industry. Moratti insists that fundamental science will be protected, noting that the Berlusconi government has put investigator-driven research on a permanent legal foundation. But some CNR scientists and officials are furious with the new layers of bureaucracy and centralization of power.

Headed by Fabio Pistella, who took office last autumn, CNR will get increased power in its 11 central departments, which will oversee the 108 individual institutes of the old CNR. Contrasting this approach to the U.S. model, one high-level source commented that it “would be unimaginable” for the government to tell the National Science Foundation “what to do.”

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