Last summer we unsuccessfully challenged the Italian government in the courts, over its decision to exclude human embryonic stem cells from a ministerial research-funding call for projects studying the biology and therapeutic use of stem cells (see Nature 460, 19; 2009; Nature 460, 449; 2009). As scientists concerned about inappropriate political interference in scientific affairs, we intend to continue the fight through the courts, even if it takes years.

The case is politically and culturally significant, particularly in Italy. We believe this exclusion of a research topic that is legal and scientifically important amounts to an abuse of power.

Widespread indifference makes this battle difficult. We hope to alert the entire scientific community inside and outside Italy to the importance of an open discussion on how public money for research is allocated, and to warn students, the media, politicians and academics about the risk of any type of ideological conditioning of science.

It is bad enough for our chronically cash-starved community that the Italian government is cutting funding for research, innovation and education in the face of the current financial crisis, and that the government's system for funding distribution is less transparent than it should be.

Italian scientists doing basic research must fight back if they do not want to be marginalized from the international scene.