Vito Campese (President - ISSNAF Italian Scientists and Scholars in North America Foundation)

La ricerca italiana negli Stati Uniti

Apr 12, 2013 4828 ITA ENG

Thousands of Italian scientists, intellectuals and researchers work in the United States – sometimes because they were driven away from their country for the lack of opportunity there, sometimes simply for the satisfaction they get from being able to demonstrate their excellence without having to compete in a race with increasingly high, futile, and damaging obstacles, and without feeling like a burden rather than a resource. Nobody better than ISSNAF President Prof. Vito Campese can tell us about this phenomenon of pressing and painful currency.

Prof. Campese, you are one of the prestigious Italian professionals who carry out their work in the United States. You are also President of ISSNAF, the Italian Scientists and Scholars in North America Foundation. What is this exactly?

ISSNAF is a foundation for and of all the Italian scientists and men of culture working in North America. It has close to four thousand members: these are Italians who work, study, teach, and do research in all sectors of the sciences and humanities in the United States and Canada.

This is an invaluable human capital, which could certainly constitute a point of reference and strength to enhance the scientific and cultural levels of our country of origin.

ISSNAF’s purpose is to help Italy understand better the link between scientific research, innovation and economic development, through initiatives aimed at increasing agreements and scientific exchanges between Italy and North America.

We also set up Young ISSNAF to facilitate the scientific and cultural development of young promising Italians who are working in North America through scientific cooperation, mentorship programs, fellowships and other kinds of support.  

It is important to underline two fundamental aspects that characterize ISSNAF: first of all, it is the biggest scientific network in the United States and Canada, with an extended database containing the details of all of our affiliates from different disciplines. This is an extremely important aspect because, in the context of scientific research, it is extremely useful to have the opportunity to directly interact with one’s colleagues. The second aspect is the territorial extensiveness of ISSNAF. As it is a nonprofit and nongovernmental organization, we can have physical offices in the whole of North American territory. In this sense, our portal, is a fundamental meeting place for our associates. We also have created real meeting opportunities, coordinated by what we call our “Chapters”.

The American immigration of the past few years is profoundly different from that of the past. Who are the new Italian immigrants in America?

In the last twenty years, Italian immigration has certainly included a lot of more highly qualified migrants but also young “desperados” convinced that, back in Italy, the only way of getting anywhere is through political or family support, in the absence of precise meritocratic rules. Young Italians come to North America driven by the belief that they can make it in an open market, where intelligence, determination and ambition to succeed are the fundamental ingredients.

What could be done to create incentives for Italian researchers and scientists to return to their country and contribute to improving our research world?

In 2012, upon request of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the MIUR – the Italian Ministry of Education, Universities and Research, ISSNAF collaborated in drafting a document intended to tackle the problem of brain circulation in Italy.

This document contains fundamental recommendations for re-launching Italian research, innovation and the economy. The points the document discusses are the following:

# 1. Support for research

# 2. The system of governance

# 3 Mechanisms of governance: fund allocation and result checking

# 4. Relations between governments, universities and industry in research development

# 5. The issue of young researchers

Unless these themes are systematically and seriously addressed, the “brain drain” problem will not be solved, because Italy lacks the prerequisites and incentives to facilitate the return of its young researchers working in North America.

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