Is Italian science declining?
The paper analyses the Italian contribution to the world scientific production, its relative citation impact, its international collaborations and scientific productivity compared with the most productive EU countries over the period 1980–2009. It shows that despite the fact that the level of funding has been dramatically low during the past decades, Italian science has been able to increase its performance up to 2007. Italian science is a “cathedral in the desert”. However, a recent reduction in the level of scientific production, the lagging behind in international scientific collaboration (highly correlated with the relative citation impact) and the great heterogeneity of researchers’ productivity (absence of correlation of number of researchers with quality and quantity of scientific production) may mark the start of a decline of Italian science. The paper concludes that the increased funding must go hand-in-hand with reform of autonomy and governance and calling for a sound system of internal quality control and performance enhancement.
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