Research activities

Implementing the research programming instruments provided for in the CNR’s Organisational and Operating Regulations, in art. 21 (ex art. 42 of the previous regulation), the institute organizes its activities in project areas and projects as required by art. 24 (ex Article 44) of that regulation.

The research lines that replace the orders required by the previous order are shown below.

Coordinator: Salvatore Capasso


The Mediterranean is an area of relations between countries with strong differences in growth, economic development and democracy. Thus, as in a microcosm, the Mediterranean region reflects the great challenges of the new millennium: population growth, unemployment, migration, reform of welfare policies, combating poverty, the effects of climate change, and the management of conflicts over the control of natural resources in the southern and eastern sides of the basin. Institutions and the quality of governance play a central role in tackling these challenges because corruption, rent-seeking positions, the presence of a public administration incapable of guaranteeing transparency, equity and equal social and gender opportunities, hinder growth and socio-economic development in all Mediterranean countries. Similarly, the functioning of real and financial markets in the area differs from country to country and from region to region, resulting in great disparities in the efficiency with which businesses operate and markets allocate resources, and conversely, strong sector and product specialisations. However, these disparities also represent great opportunities for trade and growth for all countries in the region. The line’s research activity analyses, on a broad scale, the governance and institutional processes in the Mediterranean countries and their intersections with the mechanisms that regulate the functioning of markets and individual enterprises. With the ultimate aim of highlighting the limits to the development of the countries on the southern and eastern shores and suggesting recipes for revitalising the anaemic growth of the countries on the northern shore, the line’s activities are part of the ongoing debate on the need to rethink governance in the Mediterranean, with particular reference to Community policies, the reduction of territorial gaps and security.

Coordinator: Gabriella Corona


Reflections on the Anthropocene as a new opportunity to redefine the organisation of knowledge in the face of the changing human capacity to intervene in the mechanisms that regulate the functioning of the entire planet have taken shape over the last two decades as one of the greatest scientific and political issues of our time. The Anthropocene as a difficult and complex issue that places the fate of the Earth system at the centre of international public debate requires an equally complex and articulated scientific and technological, social, cultural and political response. The contribution of the human and social sciences is still undervalued and generally undervalued, even though their area of competence is considered central in the formation of values and ethical principles, in the elaboration of decisions and public interventions. With this project, which focuses on environmental history, we intend to take up the challenge that the debate on the Anthropocene has also thrown down to history. That is, the challenge of adapting its epistemological status to a new social demand for knowledge based on the need to explain the ways in which the processes through which mankind has become one of the main agents of transformation of the ecological and geological cycles that characterise the functioning of the Earth system have taken shape. The period between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries was a timeframe in which the human capacity to shape the environment, although initiated in previous centuries, experienced an extraordinary and unprecedented acceleration due to population growth, the widespread use of fossil fuels, the growth of economic variables, and industrialisation. What differentiates the environmental history of this historical period from previous phases is the scale on which the transformations that have affected the environment are taken into consideration, which becomes planetary and involves the entire Earth System. Along with the scale, the ecological history of the last two centuries is also characterised by its intensity, the extraordinary acceleration that has led to an increase in variables such as population, energy consumption and income. It is in this context that the choice of looking at humanity as a whole as the main historical subject is justified. However, this does not alter the fact that ecological history is the fruit of social, economic, political and cultural models of production and consumption made possible by a condition of resource abundance. It is therefore a visual angle that requires an interweaving between the history of nature and the history of socio-economic systems, and while taking human beings as the main historical subject to be observed, it cannot ignore the analysis of social and territorial inequalities. The researches that are part of the project, while focusing on Italy in particular and, more generally, on the Mediterranean countries, elaborate interpretative schemes and reading keys that assume a broader value applicable to other places and other contexts.

Coordinator: Paola Avallone


Mediterranean and Southern Italy is an area whose geographical and historical characteristics have made and continue to make it an extraordinary crossroads of cultural, political, religious and economic identities. According to some historians, the socio-economic divide between northern and southern Italy has remote roots, perhaps dating back to Norman times, and has evolved into the process of national unification. In reality, in the last few decades, the historiography that has challenged the interpretative categories of the disparity and the consequent axioms has been much more fruitful in terms of knowledge, overcoming the clichés of the ‘Mezzogiorno’ and proposing the existence of several Mezzogiornos as composite realities. Hence, the need to investigate its role in an articulated and dynamic scenario such as the Mediterranean one. Therefore, with a view to a renewed sense of complexity, the researchers involved in the research project intend to examine socio-cultural and economic processes from the late Middle Ages to the contemporary age, conducting macro and micro analyses on social, cultural and economic issues, in a comparative and long-term perspective, placing the development of these realities in a broad frame of reference. Historical studies tout court and the historical analysis of economic, sociological, landscape, settlement and urban characteristics, aimed at enhancing territorial identity through cultural heritage, are part of this investigative requirement.

Coordinator: Michele Colucci


The research activity aims to investigate the phenomenon of migration starting from the methodology and tools of history, with particular attention to the contemporary age. Deepening the historical dimension of migratory phenomena allows to give back with greater depth the way in which societies have been invested by the impact of territorial mobility. The space from which the research activity moves is that of the Mediterranean basin, with particular attention to the role of Italy, considered as a place of departure, arrival, transit, return of migratory experiences. The migratory phenomena that are mostly taken into consideration are:

  • the flows coming from the Mediterranean and directed towards continental Europe and transoceanic destinations, considering the season of colonialism, the great migrations of the late modern age, the mass migrations of the contemporary age;
  • flows within the Mediterranean area, both those within regions and states and those due to the movement from the south to the north of the Mediterranean or between neighbouring countries;
  • immigration from outside the Mediterranean, with particular attention to the migratory phenomena developed in the period from the end of the Second World War to the present day;
  • return migrations, conceived in their most extensive meaning and therefore not as simple returns to the homeland but as real migratory experiences.

Coordinator: Stefania Pafumi


This line of research deals with the study of the phenomena and dynamics that characterised the cultural landscapes of the ancient Mediterranean, a privileged place for interaction and contamination, for the diffusion of people, knowledge and technologies, conflicts and identities, using multi- and interdisciplinary paths. It aims to investigate and contextualise on a local, regional or global scale, both the role of the environment and natural resources, and that of man in shaping and modifying the landscape, social and productive processes, and cultural interrelationships from antiquity to the present day, through the Middle Ages and the modern age. Exploiting the historical-artistic and archaeological, epigraphic and palaeographical, linguistic-literary and historical-philosophical skills present in the institute and promoting their interaction with the social sciences and the most innovative technologies, the research activities include traditional themes of antiquity applied to the movable and immovable cultural heritage, The research activities include traditional themes of antiquity applied to the movable and immovable, material and immaterial cultural heritage of the Mediterranean, in a longue durée perspective and through a holistic approach that also takes into account the specificities of particular cases, in order to contribute through new readings and always possible re-readings of ancient components to a better understanding of the contemporary world.

Coordinator: Luisa Errichiello


Over the last few decades, computerisation and the development of digital technologies have created increasing opportunities for business innovation, allowing process optimisation, customisation of products and services, and organisational flexibility. A central aspect of the digitisation and digital transformation processes concerns the changes in work organisation and the growing adoption of models, such as remote working, smart working and virtual teams, based on space-time flexibility criteria.
The research line is part of the current scientific debate focused on the need for companies to reach a certain degree of digital maturity, questioning the trajectories of adoption and development of digital technologies and the mechanisms through which they allow to sustainably redefine strategies, redesign the organisation, rethink business models, creating more value within global ecosystems and value chains. Focusing on the Mediterranean countries, the research line aims at elaborating theoretical models and interpretative keys of the digital maturity and innovation differentials of the enterprises of the different countries and regions of the area and at elaborating guidelines and policy measures oriented to reduce the existing gaps, supporting adaptation, resilience and dynamic capacity building.

Coordinator: Angela Cuttitta


The research activity aims to study the sea and biodiversity as a resource, with a view to the regeneration of coastal marine ecosystems and their sustainable use. Far from being a mere ethical and moral goal, the study of marine biodiversity has cultural, economic and social implications, and implies enhancing what can be broadly defined as “natural capital”. This, like any other productive factor, is a fundamental ingredient for an economic-social system not only to grow, but to develop along a path of sustainability. In this sense, a full understanding of the interrelationship between economic activities attributable to marine resources and the study of biodiversity is an essential element in drawing up policy guidelines aimed at regulating and stimulating the economic growth of countries that derive a great deal from the sea, also through awareness raising and scientific dissemination.

Coordinator: Giuseppe Mazzeo


Urban and territorial planning falls within macro-sector 08/F1 “Urban and territorial planning and design”, which represents the combination of sectors: ICAR/20 “Urban planning and technology” and ICAR/21 “Urbanism”. The research line is fully in line with this field, as it is dedicated to deepening the research aspects related to the governance of urban and territorial transformations in a phase of profound rethinking of planning tools, methods and techniques. It is indeed necessary to modify the approaches and paradigms that have guided urban and territorial development up to now, in order to favour the transition towards a society that is more attentive to the use of non-renewable resources and oriented towards environmentally sustainable solutions. If in recent decades, the principle that has guided the growth of contemporary urban systems has been above all competitiveness, in order to win the challenges of globalisation, even at the expense of protecting the identity of places and sustainable development, today, due to a growing and global economic crisis, the high consumption of territorial resources, and the current pandemic, cities must review their agendas to promote strategies of innovative adaptation to continuous emergencies. A necessary condition is that the transformations of the built environment reflect not only political, economic and cultural changes, but also people’s everyday experience of urban space. In continuity with these concepts, important references are the New Urban Agenda, which represents a shared vision for a better and more sustainable future, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and national and European cooperation policies within the Mediterranean basin. The research will focus on the Mediterranean settlement systems, as a specific macro-area of attention for ISMed. In particular, the following will be studied: urban and metropolitan systems, historical centres, suburbs, public spaces, abandoned areas.

Coordinators: Piera Buonincontri and Roberto Micera


The research line intends to promote the advancement of knowledge on the theme of tourism as a key sector of the Mediterranean economy, which is particularly interesting due to the intrinsic systemic nature of this sector, its organisational complexity and its interdependencies with the entire economic system. The numerous countries bordering the Mediterranean have very different economic, social, cultural and political characteristics. These countries are at different stages of economic development and are facing the main challenges of the current era in different ways, first and foremost those concerning technological progress and sustainable development. In such a context, studying the phenomenon of tourism by considering the Mediterranean region as an integrated destination makes it possible to develop effective strategies aimed at linking even very different areas so that they can mutually reinforce each other and promote a more balanced growth of the entire basin. The tourism sector, if properly structured and managed, can play a fundamental role in launching development strategies that are consistent with the identities of the territories and have a positive impact on the economy, culture and society of all the Mediterranean countries and islands.

Scientific responsible: Pietro Evangelista


Freight transport and logistics are essential for a country’s economic development, but at the same time they produce harmful externalities to the environment and human health mainly due to the significant contribution these activities make to harmful emissions. In this context, it is necessary for companies providing logistics and freight transport services together with manufacturing and commercial distribution companies to implement impactful strategies to decarbonise their activities along the entire supply chain. Green logistics is considered one of the most important levers to manage the supply chain in a sustainable way. However, the results of previous research show that in Italy sustainable logistics is poorly disseminated with a low propensity towards the adoption of sustainability programmes by Italian companies with particular reference to those providing freight transport and logistics services. Faced with this scenario in which there is a lack of systematic and continuous studies on this topic, the Laboratory on Green Logistics of the CNR-ISMed develop research aimed at raising awareness about the importance of sustainability in the sector and to spread the culture of green logistics as a driver of strategic business development to face the challenges posed by climate change. The main topics studied within the Laboratory concern decarbonisation strategies, environmental communication and reporting, and environmental collaboration in the supply chain. Other topics investigated are the contribution and role of digital technologies to support companies’ sustainability programmes, the reduction of the environmental impact of urban logistics, and the sustainability of logistics in rural areas.

Coordinator: Desirée A.L. Quagliarotti


As highlighted in the 2023 World Economic Forum Report, the world is currently facing a poly-crisis, a situation where crises of different nature, acting simultaneously, produce a cumulative effect greater than the sum of its parts. The concept of poly-crisis is particularly evident in the Mediterranean region, which can be considered a microcosm of global challenges. The strategic geographical position, coupled with cultural, socio-economic, political, and environmental complexity, makes the Mediterranean a unique crossroads where diverse dynamics, often interconnected, influence events across various spatial and temporal scales. Economic crises, climate change, water scarcity, food insecurity, energy transition, along with the consolidation of new explanatory variables for migration flows and instability within and between countries, outline a complex geo-economic and geopolitical landscape that poses a challenging analytical task. Hence, the need to develop knowledge systems, methodological approaches, and research outputs capable of generating new scientific knowledge and strengthening the dialogue between science, policy, and civil society. The development of interpretative models offering innovative conceptual frameworks requires a collaborative and inclusive approach, involving experts from different disciplines, academic institutions, and local stakeholders. 

Last update

2 February 2024, 12:04