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I am a little out of the Italian academic scene since my retirement, but if I understood the recent rounds of hiring in Italy they occurred in the following way. It was possible to apply for "abilitazione", that is a judgment was made if you were at an appropriate level to hold a post. This was made in most cases on the grounds of purely numerical indicators, and was supposed to be a threshold. It was not a competition. A deeper analysis, actually looking at the papers or asking experts who had read the papers, was clearly impossible since, for example, in Computer Science a committee of 5 had to judge in a year the qualities of approximately 900 applicants. (There were even complaints when more than numbers were used, since that gave power to the "barons".)
After this judgment a great number of the abilitati were given permanent posts, thus filling up vacancies for some time.
The pressure this type of thing puts on scientific publishing is enormous. Referees, while trying to make judgments on papers, now have to consider that they are deciding the careers of young people, the grants for older people, that the prestige of the journal will affect jobs and grants. The reason the pressure is so enormous is that the job and granting committees don't look at the papers, just the numbers.
The job of a referee has become impossible, at the same time that there is more and more need for referees since scientists are being forced to publish more and more.
Scientific publishing must free itself from these pressures.
Thinking about this situation brought back to mind some thoughts of Bernhard Neumann.
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Labels: Italy, opinions