A research state-of-the-art and talent agitation

Two models for an attraction proposal for the benefit of our universities and the Country System

It is true, so true that by virtue of hearing it repeated by tg, newspapers, web, etc., the theme has become familiar to us. It must be, on the other hand, because it directly affects both us and the Country to which we refer, Italy. Many researchers trained here tend to go abroad, in search of situations and balances judged to be more promising or better. The arguments for this specific exodus are endless. Many simply deplore the dynamics, because they correctly adopt a perspective in which Italy loses knowledge, while other Countries acquire it. Others see the issue from above, perhaps calling into question the issue of international mobility, which, just as correctly, is a need for research itself, and a value both in terms of the growth of experience, and in terms of possibilities for confrontation and integration, in different cultures, often radically different, from our own. An interesting (and proactive, too) contribution comes to us from Gianluca Briguglia, History of Political Doctrines Professor at the Venice University Ca' Foscari, and the blog he runs for the Ilpost.it website.

In support of the mobility of researchers within the Union, Europe has for years inaugurated a work of strong encouragement through programmes such as Marie Curie, which "in the last 10 years has funded around 100,000 researches for young people based on their project – selected to the strictest standards – in a university institution or research of a different Country from the one of origin." Yet, going back to the plurality of perspectives mentioned above, it is also fair to remember a different side of the coin. Our Country's impasse to attract teachers and researchers. We are not only talking about the return of our fellow citizens, but above all, of foreigners. "Foreigners are almost non-existent in Italian departments. And the problem is both related to the resources that are lacking, both to a certain opacity of the competitions at all levels (...), and also to a certain widespread culture of inertia and, at the bottom, of closure."

Professor Briguglia speaks with good reason, having behind him teaching and research assignments (sometimes also directorial) at the Philosophy Faculty of the University of Strasbourg, at the University and at the Academy of Sciences in Vienna, at EHESS in Paris, at the LMU in Munich. Recently, "and thanks to a virtuous law of direct call from abroad, which is a tool that some universities are learning to use strategically", he has returned to our and his Country. The need for change, pace and culture, which he emphasizes, starts not from the philosophy, but from the daily life that has been able to be spent around Europe. Perfectly aware of the relative slowness of change, he is equally aware of the urgency to act, which declines in a series of precise actions in contrast, exposed through the cases of other Countries that he has been able to personally experience.

In Austria, for example, there is a funding programme for foreign researchers with innovative projects, who want to work in an Austrian university of which they become dependent, but being paid by an independent body, the FWF der Wissenschaftsfonds. Portugal and Spain have produced variants of this model, increasing their attractiveness to European researchers. The german von Humboldt Foundation, on the other hand, for half a century has been selecting foreign scholars every year, analyzing potential, results already obtained, and innovation. Funded by the Ministry of Research, Economic Development and Foreign Affairs, it has the "responsibility" to have supported ultra-awarded researchers (Nobel), integrating them into its universities and research centres for two years, responsibly investing in access procedures and strong objectives.

"Why not to think of such a thing in Italy? Why, in the process of attracting foreign researchers, we do not start from precisely those who are in the early stages, (...) that can integrate our departments (of course: at no cost to departments), and contaminate them with other research cultures, enriching them with talent and opening them up to international projects and networks?" What the Professor theoretically frames is the first step in a journey that, if maintained at full capacity, would be the first milestone in a long season of revenge of our academic and research system. Dedicated foundations, territory involvement, precise strategy. Why don’t we try?

Enzo "The Drake" Ferrari used to say about himself: "I have never been neither designer nor calculating. I have always been an agitator of men and talents." Why don’t we risk being Talent agitators too?