Massimo Pinto of Italy's Istituto Superiore di Sanità in Rome has discovered an unusual qualification for being a peer reviewer of research done at Italian institutions: paying your taxes. Since 2006, Italians have been allowed to donate 0.5% of their taxes to selected non-profit organizations. On his Nature Network blog, Science in the Bel Paese (, Pinto points out that individuals can elect to donate their contributions to specific research institutes.

The process could have the effect of bypassing the peer-review system for research projects, which, Pinto argues, could have dire effects on research in a country such as Italy, where science-funding levels are low. Some institutes have even taken to advertising for donations, but providing no details of the research the tax money will fund. “The particular advert that irritated me was a dialogue between two young citizens,” writes Pinto. “One was asking whether the researchers in XYZ University were really going to deliver results, and the other one replied, reassuringly, that they were among the very best in Europe. Donating to them was a guarantee of success.”