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    INFN Exam Does Not Go Deserted
    By Tommaso Dorigo | July 6th 2009 03:48 PM | 7 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Tommaso

    I am an experimental particle physicist working with the CMS experiment at CERN. In my spare time I play chess, abuse the piano, and aim my dobson...

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    Unfortunately I was right: at least in predicting that the INFN exam dubbed "R5" would not go deserted. The R5 exam, which in exchange for a stressful pair of written tests (which I am trying to get a hold of, to report on it here) guaranteed nothing that the participants did not have beforehand  -a certification of readiness for a temporary position within INFN, which the institute cannot however offer, being short of cash-, saw the participation of 178 candidates among the about 350 who had submitted their application a couple of months ago. Barely more than half: this is a victory, since the participation is sufficient to grant value to the results.

    It must be said that many more post-doctoral scientists in experimental particle physics did not even bother to apply. To them goes my sympathy and my best wishes for a better career than what INFN can offer. Of course, I am also sympathetic with the rest of the pack, but admittedly experimental particle physics is an overcrowded field nowadays, and I predict it will be even more so in ten years, when it will be clear that basic research should concentrate on other than the high-energy frontier to answer our most fundamental questions on Nature (the bitch).

    Since I am in a vein of predictions, let me tell you what was the other part of my foreseeing -which will have to wait to be proven right or wrong: contrarily to what would be wise and just to do, INFN will end up using the yes/no tag that the R5 exam has attached to those 178 compliant post-docs. Because not doing so would be utterly inconsistent, and inconsistency these days is a very bad policy for an institute which is watched closely by the government, eager to control it and anxious to punish its staff, which hides many opposers to the government. Berlusconi's dwarfs and dancers have been subtly attacking the foundations of free research in Italy for a while now, and they are just waiting for a pretext to dismantle it.

    If Berlusconi does not fall for the sea of scandals he has been floating on in the recent past -which allegedly include unconvicted bribing of a convicted corrupt lawyer, stalking of underage girls, exploitation of prostitution, private use of public air freight, etcetera- I fear INFN will be the next target of his government, which since its installment in 2008 has been deploying a multi-threaded plan to dismantle free research, reduce the role of public universities, shrink funding of public schools. All for the sake of creating a classist society, where the rich have more privileges.

    No, I do not blame those younger colleagues who have long decided that Italy is not the place to do research. As for me, I keep doing my job. We will see who will be still standing in a few years, Berlusconi and Licio Gelli's plan of national rebirth, or a free country.

    Comments

    Hank
    Berlusconi's dwarfs and dancers have been subtly attacking the foundations of free research in Italy for a while now, and they are just waiting for a pretext to dismantle it.
    If Berlusconi does not fall for the sea of scandals it has been floating on in the recent past -which allegedly include unconvicted bribing of a convicted corrupt lawyer, stalking of underage girls, exploitation of prostitution, private use of public air freight
    Well, that last sentence certainly will not call off the dogs.   :)
    dorigo
    Hmmm should I be more careful ? :)
    T.
    I think it's unusually brave to have half of the candidates not showing up (although those who did were enough to legally ruin the effort). Way to go. Another pitiful example of where basic research is heading to unless people act, is what happened in Greece one month ago: out of the blue the ministry of development announced the restructuring of public research institutions, absorbing many of them into others, making absolutely no sense and creating chaos. It was a decision that nobody had foreseen, not taking into account the existing evaluations of each institution, preparing a devastating mess by absorbing institutes that happen to have similar terms in their name (eg. nuclear physics - nuclear technology - radiodiagnostics; not kidding you) and geographically moving many of them -- not to mention shutting the social sciences research center down. The ministry goes on with lies to the press, like claiming that there had been wide discussions held or that they are gonna save money from the salaries of boards of directors (members of the boards had not been getting extra money for their participation!) etc. etc. Let's see where this thing goes.

    And that's Greece, the birthplace of science. Really sad news indeed. I never imagined the situation there to be this bad. I hope this gets sorted out somehow.

    dorigo
    This is quite saddening news Tulpoeid, I was unaware of the situation in Greece. I guess that, with Spain now having a higher per-capita GNP and being aired to be more worthy of a place in G8, Italy's place in the EU will soon be brought where it belongs, with the rest of Mediterranean states - Greece and Portugal.

    Cheers,
    T.
    @ T & T,

    We'd better hold on to our belts for a few more years based on the first 5 points of this July 3rd - MILAN (Dow Jones) report:

    1. Soaring budget deficits in the euro zone will require a doubling of government bond issuance in the next two years.

    2. European governments this week have been reporting growing budget gaps as the recession shrinks tax income and drives up the welfare bill.

    3. Greece reported tax receipts in the first quarter came in almost 25% below expectations. Ireland reported a 150% increase in its budget deficit in the first half, as tax revenue fell by 17% from the same period in 2008.

    4. Heavily-indebted Italy said its budget deficit in the first quarter was 9.3% of gross domestic product, twice the government's full-year target and three times the 3% limit set by the European Union's Stability Pact.

    5. European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet warned that euro-zone countries must now plan on reigning in deficits more quickly than planned once recovery sets in, expected next year.

    One of the few silver linings could be Obama's visit to Russia this week. If somehow there could be real progress on reducing tensions with NATO, the involved European countries might alleviate a percentage of their military defense financial burdens with the savings transferred. Unfortunately, the odds of this happening are very improbable and should be considered extremely naive. Unless there is a protracted concerted effort by the EU to apply pressure to the U.S., Russia and China to get their act together the timely economic recovery of all other nations are remote at best. Once again, the top 3 super powers of the world have failed the rest miserably. Thus we have multiple second rate buffoons running their respective countries into the ground with no governors to keep them at bay and the Silvio's of the world will continue to wear their s--- eating grins.

    dorigo
    You paint a picture that is not pretty, Fred. I wonder what will Berlusconi offer to discuss at G8 in L'Aquila tomorrow, given these premises. It looks like the economical crisis will drive the agenda (which is still in a undetermined state, quite embarassingly).

    The crisis is being used as an excuse for all the funding cuts, everywhere. However nobody has the guts to raise taxes to the rich. This is shameful.

    Cheers,
    T.