Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Dire times for Italian Astronomy

A new article by a chorus of Italian astronomers, "A decline and fall in the future of Italian Astronomy?", laments the precipitous cutoff of funding for astronomical research in Italy, the home of Galileo.  Three excerpts:

The community is astonished, shocked by the news (most of the Italian astronomers - including the INAF president - learned this from the newspapers) that INAF is listed among several institutes considered useless. An April Fools’ Day prank? No, it is not . . . Messages rapidly overflow all our mailboxes. Is Italy turning off the stars? Is the homeland of Galileo leaving his heirs orphans?  What is going to happen to us? And to all young (and not-so-young anymore) people working on short-term contracts? And to our projects funded on European or International Grants? Several protests take place in Italy, and not just from researchers working at INAF. Several other institutes have gone under the same hatchet.
How is INAF going to survive with a severely reduced budget?  All programmed cuts are likely going to bring to a very significant reduction of short-term contracts and trigger a new brain drain of young (and also not so young) researchers to foreign countries. At the same time, it will become very hard to attract foreign researchers to our country. This implies that Italian astronomy will lose the most productive and competitive part of their researchers. Not the best way to save money, at least not on the long term. The prediction is that of a rapid and irreversible decline of Italian astrophysical research.
The usefulness of basic, intermediate, and high education, as well as of research, is being questioned in Italy, mainly because they do not produce quick and easy money. We realize that, unfortunately, this approach and way of thinking is not limited to our country (although Italy probably represents a dire example of cultural decay). As scientists, we cannot turn aside from fighting this way of thinking, that we consider blind, foul, and irresponsible. It is not these principles that we want to hand on to future generations of astronomers, Italians, and citizens of this world.

(Via AstroBetter on Facebook.)

No comments: