Thursday, January 18, 2007

Lack of Funding for Italian Researchers Logic

Not so long ago, I reported with pleasure on a success story for Italian research in logic. Unfortunately, it looks like it is now time for bad news regarding research in logic in Italy.

Over the last few days, I have been reading a sequence of messages posted on the mailing list of the Italian Association for Logic and its Applications (AILA) related to the results of the applications for PRIN projects. (I think that PRIN is an Italian acronym standing for "Projects of National Interest".) The list of PRIN projects funded in the subject area of mathematics and computer science is here. A quick browse through the list gives me the impression that not enough of the funded projects are from computer science. Moreover, the only funded project related to logic in computer science is

OMODEO EugenioUniversità degli Studi di TRIESTE22.680Sviluppo su grande scala di dimostrazioni certificate

(Large scale development of certified proofs. Amount: 22.680 euros.)

One can also make the case that the project

DEGANO PierpaoloUniversità degli Studi di PISA94.500Sistemi e calcoli di ispirazione biologica e loro applicazioni -- BISCA

impacts on logic in computer science, broadly construed. (By the way, well done Pierpaolo!)

Funding for projects in mathematical logic and its relationships to computer science is conspicuously absent, despite the strength of Italian researchers in this area. Albeit the lack of funding will have very negative consequences on logic research in Italy, this is not the only thing that is bothering Italian logicians. From what I gather, all of the projects proposals from logicians received the same one-line evaluation, namely interesting, but marginal, as well as the same numerical score.

I do not know who the reviewers of the projects were, and I know nothing about the quality of the submitted projects. However, I feel that I have to take a firm and public stance against this uniform, general and vague "scientific" evaluation for 50-page long proposals. Would any of us be happy to write a long paper and have it rejected with a one-liner? And can logic research be at all labelled as being marginal?

Logic is the calculus of computer science! Apart from its intrinsic scientific and cultural interest, this fact alone shows that logic research is by no means marginal. In fact, thanks to its close connections with computer science, logic is the most applied branch of mathematics! (This is not just the opinion of your truly. I invite Italian readers --- assuming they exist, of course :-) --- to check out pages 108-109 of the interview with Enrico Giusti in the excellent book Professione Matematico. Note that Giusti is not a logician.)

I hope that the Italian mathematical community does not consider logic a marginal subject, and that, in the future, the evaluation of project proposals will involve expert reviewers from abroad, as it is done essentially everywhere else. This will be a great step forward towards the use of proper peer review in the distribution of the funding available for scientific research, and will increase the transparency of the whole process.

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