Francesco Merloni

Autonomia, responsabilità, valutazione nella disciplina delle università e degli enti di ricerca non strumentale

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The autonomy of universities and non-instrumental research institutions, established by the final paragraph of Article 33 of the Constitution, could be made to work if actually practised and also adequately reviewed. The only solution for the effective development of a science not instrumental to outside interests (political and economic) is having scientific institutions that are fully responsible for research activity and the results thereof, participants in the key decisions regarding political direction and programming pertaining to the sector, and subject to a series of impartial verifications. To this end, two main hypotheses for the 'reform' of the research sector are identified (the creation of a competitive market in both higher education and research, and increased powers of political direction/control over the sector), as well as the impracticability thereof, both juridical and substantive. Also, the underpinnings of the autonomy of scientific institutions are reconstructed, and an attempt is made to point out solutions suggested to date for making the model functional. In the determination of organisational solutions, autonomy is an unavoidable choice if the desire is to guarantee the effective development of non-instrumental research. The choice is not only unavoidable, but also functional, being 'efficient' (instruments exist for obtaining the best use of available resources by scientific institutions) and 'effective' (instruments exist for encouraging and verifying the achievement of results: teaching that meets minimum guaranteed standards, basic research and quality research). The 'responsible autonomy' that best responds to constitutional dictates (articles 9, 33, 34 and 97) constitutes a reversal of the model currently practised (above all as regards research institutions), but does not require an additional comprehensive organic 'reform.' Just a few well-conceived corrective measures will suffice, above all in the area of evaluation and financing systems, which at present are not consistent with the autonomy of scientific institutions. Responsible autonomy cannot be defined just in terms of better-conceived normative instruments compared to present ones, but must be founded on a determination to practise the same on a regular basis. An organisational set-up stable as much possible is needed, able to provide the scientific institutions with what (along with autonomy and freedom) is the most precious good: a long-term perspective.


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