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Research Article

Measuring Nepotism through Shared Last Names: The Case of Italian Academia

  • Stefano Allesina mail

    sallesina@uchicago.edu

    Affiliation: Department of Ecology and Evolution, Computation Institute, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, United States of America

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  • Published: August 03, 2011
  • DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0021160

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Posted by albertozamo on 23 Aug 2011 at 08:06 GMT

There seems to be a neverending discussion about nepotism and "baronism" in Italy, probably due to the evident problems of the Italian academic system, that require the identification of a culprit. The general opinion is that if you are able to abolish these phenomena, the whole academia will be free from disease. The Italian government has detected this feeling and, being more sensitive to public approval than to the good of the nation, has passed a law forbidding hiring relatives in the same academic Department. De facto, while trying to avoid nepotism, this approach might damage talented people that are discriminated simply on the basis of their kinship. A realistic analysis of the situation would show that lobbies exist even in the most competitive systems, like the US academic environment. So what's the problem with Italy? In my humble opinion, Italy's problem (not only at academic level) is presence of "sanctuaries" where a total lack of responsibility is possible. When the Heads of Departments and the Rectors will be asked to pay for the low scientific productions of the institutions they control, they will think twice before hiring an untalented relative or friend. As a counterweight, the same Heads should be free to hire whoever they think is necessary for the good of their institutions. In my opinion, the only way out of the Italian impasse is the motto "more freedom, more responsibility".

No competing interests declared.