Don't Shoot Research, Italian Environmental Scientists Protest

With a rooftop protest televised over the Internet and a surreal video depicting masked scientists being gunned down, Italian researchers working for the country’s main environmental research institute are protesting job cuts recently announced by Minister of Environment Stefania Prestigiacomo. Already 200 people have been fired this year and another 250 may not see their short-term contracts renewed for 2010. More than one third of the 1000-plus scientists working at Italy's Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA ) have jobs at risk, say the protesters.

Upset researchers first gathered 1 month ago on the roof of ISPRA. They are broadcasting the ongoing protest via webcam. A video they’ve made, called Do Not Shoot Research, shows the work ISPRA does, followed by a black-masked, suited man firing imaginary bullets at a lineup of lab-coated, white-masked, anonymous scientists. 

The researchers, who work on waste management, air pollution, nuclear waste, marine ecosystems, and more, claim that the job cuts will devastate environmental monitoring in Italy.

They also worry that ISPRA functions, and its money, are being shifted to Sogesid, a private environmental science company funded by the Ministry that isn’t under the same regulations as full-fledged government agencies.

Last week, ISPRA researchers occupied the 5th floor of the Ministry bulding until Prestigiacomo agreed to hold a meeting yesterday with the scientists. That discussion appears to have resolved little, however; a Ministry spokeperson of the Ministry, Bernadette Nicotra, who met with researchers on Monday, declined to answer to questions from Science and researchers say they fear that police will force them off ISPRA’s roof in the next few days. Another meeting between the two sides is planned for next year.