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Budgets and the Best Researchers

Massimo Inguscio, optical physicist at the University of Florence, is taking over as president of Italy's National Research Council (CNR) this weekend, where ScienceInsider says he'll have to grapple with managing personnel.

Italy spends a small percentage of its gross domestic product on research, and Inguscio tells ScienceInsider that most of that funding goes to salaries and basic expenses like electricity, leaving little to pay for research itself. However, it adds that Italy's 2016 budget includes some €100 million for 850 or so new university researchers. 

This, Inguscio says, "is a welcome, if small, reversal compared to the general trend of decreasing finances." However, he notes that hiring practices in Italy often result in people who are on waiting lists for jobs to receive them rather than the most qualified person.

To combat that, research institutions in Italy are asking to start tenure-track processes there, he adds.

"Research managers must be free to choose people on the basis of merit," Inguscio says. Under the proposed tenure process, "[n]ew recruits would go through a trial period, and if they prove themselves good enough [they] would then gain a permanent position. We need to have a serious hiring policy that doesn't rely on personal contacts."