Three of Italy's most respected academics have published an open letter to education minister Letizia Moratti and treasury minister Giulio Tremonti appealing for more financial support for scientific research.
They accuse the conservative government, led by media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi, of having failed to keep electoral promises to increase research resources.
The letter, signed by biologists Carlo Alberto Redi and Silvia Garagna of the University of Pavia and by Maurizio Zuccotti of the University of Parma follows a joint announcement by the two ministers that spending on research will be boosted from 0.6 per cent of GNP to 1.0 per cent in 2006. This would bring state research spending closer to the average of 1.8 per cent of GNP among the major European countries.
The letter's signatories claim this is not enough. They point out that the United States and Japan spend 2.4 per cent and 2.8 per cent of gross national product respectively, and even Tunisia invests more than 1 per cent.
In its recent budget, the government cut higher education and research spending because of defence costs resulting from September 11 and a deficit left by the previous administration.