Erica P. Johnson

The Italian scientific community welcomes government efforts to halt a longstanding exodus of researchers across all disciplines, but without much optimism that the measures will be successful anytime soon. The underlying problem is not just chronic underfunding, according to a broad consensus among Italian academics, but also a culture of cronyism within Italian academia that militates against merit.

"Nothing has changed in Italian academia in the last four years," says Domenico Pacitti, editor of the Italian online journal Just Response. "It is still quite literally impossible to get a tenured teaching post at an Italian university without having what Italians call a raccomandazione. This means a special recommendation from someone in power. It is given on the basis of criteria other than merit."

Although some dispute the underlying causes, there is little disagreement over the existence of an Italian brain drain. The most comprehensive survey...

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