Hungarian Academy of Sciences rejects government’s restructuring plans

After months of negotiations, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA) has decided to vote against a proposals by the minister for innovation and technology László Palkovics to radically restructure of the academy.

At the end of January Mr Palkovics created the National Office for Research, Development and Innovation, under the direct control of the ministry, inviting the Academy of Sciences’ research institutes to apply for funding to cover basic costs such as salaries and maintenance.

However, the Academy of Sciences claimed to have until now been an independent body, and is therefore unhappy at having to compete with other institutions in Hungary.

An amendment introduced by Mr Palkovics to the 2019 budget removed 40 per cent of the academy’s budget and brought it under the government’s direct control, a move which researchers view as an attempt to limit their academic freedom.

At a meeting of the MTA’s general assembly, it was decided that the institutes will remain part of the academy, which it believes to be in the best interest of science, innovation and Hungary as a whole.

At the same time, academics will give more power to the government, through the creation of a new governing board, whose president will be appointed by the prime minister based on a recommendation made by the president of the academy and the minister responsible for science policy. However, the academy decided not to green-light the government’s delegation of 50 per cent of this new body’s membership, allowing the government only a third of the representation.

“This is unacceptable to the government,” said Mr Palkovics. “More talks are needed. We do not want to strip MTA of its network, just put it on a new track.”

Before the meeting, Mr Palkovics had been very clear about the fate of the academy, stating that Hungary’s scientific performance had failed to advance over the past decades. He once again claimed that if the MTA rejects his plan, the government will separate the network of research institutes by force, modifying academic law.