Your News story 'New law threatens Italian research jobs' (Nature 455, 840–841; 2008) and Editorial 'Cut-throat savings' (Nature 455, 835–836; 2008) both describe the dire situation for research scientists in Italy. But that's only half the story.
The 4,000 researchers you cite belong only to research centres and include only researchers eligible to apply for permanent positions. Most temporary researchers in Italy are employed at universities under one of 20 or more different types of contract applicable to postgraduate and postdoctoral scholars. Neither the university administrators nor the ministry of education keeps track of this population, which the Italian network of temporary researchers, Rete Nazionale Ricercatori Precari, believes could consist of more than 60,000 people.
The present government's funding cuts to research and higher education are so drastic that Italy will fall short of the 2000 Lisbon Treaty requirements for government support of research and development across the European Union.
Although funds are available to hire 4,000 researchers, a law approved in August this year will withdraw this funding. Researchers already slated for jobs may lose the chance of a permanent position.
This law has galvanized demonstrations across Italy against the government's draconian measures. Students, technicians, permanent staff and temporary researchers have met to discuss the law and its consequences, with several faculties officially opposing the law. A petition has been set up at http://tinyurl.com/6otega.
Italian universities must change to become more responsive to international standards of research. But this governmental reform is not the change the universities need, assassinating as it will research and higher education in Italy.
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Precari, R. Italy: 'draconian' new law galvanizes demonstrations. Nature 456, 166 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1038/456166a