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MTA, government gear up for fight over control of research

The Presidium of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA) Tuesday pledged its continued support for keeping the academyʼs research network under its own aegis, signaling its refusal to give in to the governmentʼs controversial plan to pass control of research to the Ministry for Innovation and Technology (ITM).

The Hungarian Academy of Sciences, on Széchenyi István tér beside the Danube

Hungaryʼs government recently mandated a restructuring of the institutional framework and financing of the countryʼs research, development and innovation (RDI) network. The MTA has complained of a lack of resources at its research institutes after some funding was moved from its own independent budget chapter to the budget chapter of the Ministry for Innovation and Technology.

The MTA Presidium decided unanimously on April 16 that while it would submit to the Academy Assembly alternatives for the future management of the MTA research network, "the Presidium unambiguously favors reforms made within the Academy," resolutions published on the MTA website show, as reported by state news agency MTI.

The MTA Presidium said it agrees with the resolutions taken with a consensus of the working groups of the academy and the ministry, and supports submitting them to the Academy Assembly, including the creation of a directing body or "Senate" for the research network.

The Presidium specifically stated, however, that it sees it as indispensable for the research network itself to delegate one third of the members of the future directing body, with one-third each to be delegated by the academy and the government, respectively.

The ministry, for its part, favors the academy and the government each delegating six members, not including the chairman. The ITM said in a statement Wednesday that it expects "constructive cooperation," and urged the MTA "to give serious consideration to the advantages of change."

The MTA Presidium resolution, however, stated that any change in the management of the academyʼs research network must be based on self-governance and an autonomous legal standing, while the financing of the network should be defined, fixed for several years, and insured against inflation, by law.

The ministry statement did not refer to a plan to establish an Eötvös Loránd research network, which was part of a proposal sent by the ministry to the academy on April 15, according to the MTA website. Neither did the proposal include the majority of the consensus-approved proposals of the two working groups, the website wrote.

In February, the European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities (ALLEA) repeated its call to protect the institutional autonomy and academic freedom of the MTA, expressing solidarity with its member academy and calling for support of all researchers and staff affiliated with the MTA, and denouncing "recurring" and "unfounded" interventions by the Hungarian government.

ALLEA said that it shares the MTAʼs position that the proposed reorganization of the academy structure would gravely endanger the future funding of all scientific disciplines, and may particularly threaten research in the humanities.