AbstractItaly is the single largest country in Continental Europe to have adopted a regular and mandatory research assessment approach, involving all researchers at universities and Public Research Organizations (PROs), with impact on performance-based funding. With more than 180,000 products, evaluated by more than 14,000 referees, the 2004–2010 exercise carried out by a newly created Agency (ANVUR) was one of the largest ever carried out. It has adopted a peculiar mixed-methodology approach, using peer review in Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) and bibliometrics in STEM disciplines. The approach has raised a number of conceptual and technical issues. In parallel a major reform of academic recruitment has introduced quantitative indicators as threshold values for candidates to the National Scientific Habilitation. This procedure has been made possible by a massive exercise of classification and rating of journals. The paper addresses the most important criticisms raised against these research assessment initiatives and checks their arguments against empirical evidence. The paper also addresses the controversial issue of unintended and negative consequences of research assessment. The final section offers some policy highlights.