Lecturer/Position/Organization: Piergiorgio Strata
Professor of Neurophysiology, Rita Levi Montalcini center for brain Repair, Dpt Neuroscience University of Turin, Italy
Session/Theme: Science, Technology and Economy
Title of the presentation: Freedom in the access to science career
Among the many aspects of freedom in research one concerns the lack of free access to a scientific carrier which is still present in several countries. As stated by Arthur Kornberg (Science 278:1863, 1997) fifty years ago, concerning biomedical research, there were two models in the world for an individual scientist to have access to a scientific carrier. The USA model consisted of an individual who applies for a research grant and judged in competition with other applicants by a group of peers outside his own Institution. After obtaining the grant, his future success depends on what he accomplishes. The scientist is thus independent to pursue his program from department heads, dean and University policies. In such a way, a free brain market has been achieved leading the Universities to recruit the best funded scientists. Such a free market has contributed to a flow of scientists from all over the world towards USA. Although Kornberg complains about an increasing pressure to distribute block grants, a free individual brain market is still dominating the system. In the rest of the world the tendency was, and at some extent it is still now, different. The scientific carrier may depend on senior scientists thus hampering a brain market. Although there is now a tendency for a change in many countries, including China, the situation is little changed in Italy where the carrier in State Universities is under the stringent control of a Professor. Even when a University Committee decides for the best candidate, the applicants usually belong to closed clubs. This lack of brain market is the main determinant of the difficulties in reaching an average high level of our public research system. Something different occurs in some private Universities or research Centers leading to an increasing gap in the performance level between the public and the private sectors.