Ousted Italian Space Agency Head in Race for E.U. Parliament

Italian space scientist Giovanni Bignami, who in 2008 was forced out as head of the Italian Space Agency (ASI), is running as a Democratic candidate in the European Union parliamentary elections to be held 6-7 June. Contesting from the country's northwest constituency, the largest of Italy's five electoral districts, Bignami hopes to win one of 72 seats available to Italian representatives. The body will comprise a total of 736  parliamentarians for the coming 5-year term.

Bignami's manifesto promises an improved status of research in Italy and greater leverage of the country's membership in the E.U. He wants to give young people better access to careers in research and raise spending on science, which currently stands at 0.9% of the country's GDP, one of Europe's lowest.

Bignami's party faces a tough fight against the right-wing establishment, led by Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi, which dominates the current flock of 78 Italian Euro-MPs. Bignami certainly has a bone to pick with Berlusconi's government, which removed him from the presidency of ASI last summer in a broader move to overhaul Italian research institutes.

Bignami is demanding clear objectives and assessment and transparency in the use of public funds. An endorsement on his campaign Web site from fellow Italian and physics Nobelist Carlo Rubbia says Bignami is "the right person to defend science, research, innovation, and the universities in Europe."