The Italian University recruitment system is definitely not efficient and malpractice occurs, but this happens more because of individual unethical and/or illegal behavior rather than being endemic, as alleged by Doncarli et al.1 Their main issue is the limitation on the number of papers submitted with the application. This is not peculiar to Italian selection committees; it is common in North America and concerns only papers that are physically submitted. Its purpose is to permit a judgment based not only on number of papers but also on quality of research, through self-evaluation and detailed screening of the (presumably) best papers. No selection process will ignore the number of papers and quality of the venues in which the papers are published.

The committees require full curriculum vitae for each candidate, including detailed academic histories, even votes from thesis committees and examinations, explanations of the candidate's research activities, and full bibliographies....

Chinese researchers recently used several indicators of research performance to evaluate and rank 2,000 universities world-wide.1 There was only one Italian university in the top 100, Roma "La Sapienza," which ranked 70th.

Commenting on the Chinese study, Piero Tosi, president of the Council of Rectors, stated "... I am not surprised by the results of the study. Unfortunately, Italy holds a sad record. It is among the countries with the lowest number of researchers in the world, and the research funds that are available are equivalent to approximately one percent of the gross national product."

What Mr. Tosi does not say is a remarkable insight into the politics and cronyism that has always plagued all areas of research in Italy, specifically in "Concorsi – Competitions," the scandalous method of choosing candidates for research. Another matter [that] I believe requires close and serious attention: the "top-heavy" university system. In Italy, assistant, associate, and full professors are there for life. They are never demoted, and in my 30 years of experience I have never heard of a professor losing his/her job. How much of the budget that is spent paying these professors might be more usefully and better spent supporting good research?

Carlo Bellini

Genova University carlobellini@ ospedale-gaslini.ge.it


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