In Italy, a committee comprising three members grants tenured positions atthe lowest level, namely research assistant professor. These committees draw members from two sources: The institution that makes the position available nominates one person, and the others are elected, at the national level, by professors in the field. National regulations require that the applicants submit a limited number of published papers. The universities specify the number; the applicants choose which papers are submitted. While this may sound reasonable, the outcome is often anything but.

Consider a recent case at Politecnico di Torino, Italy, where a slot for research assistant professor in biomedical engineering became available. The administration ruled that an applicant could submit no more than 10 publications (the term is not defined) in addition to the applicant's complete curriculum vitae for the evaluation of his or her scientific activity.

Two applications were submitted. Applicant 1 was the last author...

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