In Italy, only 2 per cent of the population consider scientists and experts to be society's leading personalities (Censis 2006). Scientists are classified among the “weak social groups” and more precisely as those who have little influence either because they lack representation in the media (the faculty), or because they lack resources. (Young researchers face the lowest percentage of GDP invested in research among the G8 countries.) This article contributes to the current debate on science policies in Europe and addresses the question of why science has such a low reputation in Italy. How did this situation emerge and what methods should be taken to tackle it beyond merely increasing financial resources? An historical overview of how Marcello Carapezza and Alberto Monroy created leading research centers in geochemistry and developmental biology in Palermo offers insight into the opportunities and threats posed by Italy's academic system. This brief analysis of the Italian academic system should interest international readers who want their country to evolve from a closed, corporative, centralized system into a country that can compete at an international level to attract talented students and resources and achieve a higher scientific reputation.
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