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Commercial pressures endanger core mission of public labs

Image: Ian Muttoo [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Flickr

The more external income Italy’s national research institutes attract, the fewer research papers they publish, says Mario Coccia.

Europe has many national public research organisations, including Germany’s Max Planck Society and the national research councils of France, Italy and Spain. Together, they make up a crucial piece of the continent’s research and innovation system.

Public funding once enabled researchers at these organisations to maintain a basic level of scientific activity. In the past two decades, however, the political and economic environment has led governments in most countries to reorganise these bodies—through mergers of institutes, for example—and shrink their budgets. As well as saving money, governments hope that these reforms will foster multidisciplinary approaches and enhance cooperation with businesses.

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