I am actually one of those "returning Italian scientists."1 I studied in the US for six years, from 1996 to 2002. I took my PhD in molecular cellular and developmental biology at Yale University and then decided to come back to work in Italy, thanks to this "Rientro dei Cervelli" program. I was given a stipend for three years (although not comparable to European standards), some money for research expenses, and a lab where I could work (in la Sapienza University, in Rome). Not a very bad deal, according to Italian standards, in fact.
But what really worried me was what to do when this contract is over. In fact, nobody knows what is going to happen to us at that point. Publishing in Italy is a slow process, meaning that in three years' time we'll be much less competitive with other scientists and will have less opportunity to find good jobs. This program allowed me to go back to my country (it was almost impossible before). But then I feel that I have to start immediately to look for other contracts or, even better but much more difficult, some kind of permanent position. The government doesn't really have clear ideas on what to do with us, and unless you are working with a very important professor who can find job positions for you, you're in danger of being thrown out from the university once the contract time is over.
What in fact I agree with is that the Rientro dei Cervelli Program does not necessarily attract the best or worst scientists but more likely Italians who are ready to compromise between career issues and stipends and their dream to go back and work in a beautiful country.
Giovanna Serino, PhD
Dipartimento di Genetica e Biologia Molecolare
Universita' di Roma "La Sapienza"