The Products of Research on Spatial Planning and Urban Development. An inquiry into the recent Italian planning literature.

Bruno Zanon


In Italy, recent University reforms, a research quality assessment exercise, and the selection of academics by means of innovative procedures are all accelerating the discussion on the specificity of
research on spatial planning and urban design. One first step was a discussion on the quality of the journals in which planners and urban designers customarily publish, but there is an urgent need for a more general debate on what kind of research is expected to be developed, and what ‘research products’ must be delivered. This also relates to the structure itself of the discipline (such as its focus, and the specific methods used), the way academics are trained (Ph.D. programmes, in
particular), how they participate in the national and international debate, as well as how they are selected, the way research is supported financially, and finally, the connections between scholarship and practical (including professional) activities. Following a review of the international debate on which an analytical framework has been developed, this paper analyses what is considered by Italian academia to be ‘research product’, on the basis of articles published in key Italian journals. The goal is not to pass judgment on each contribution, but to develop a classification of content, methods and results of what is put forward as – or should be – the product of research.


Italian Planning; Italy; Environmental Planning; Development Control; Development Plans; Strategic Plans; Strategic Environmental Assessment; Heritage Management

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