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Orbán Gov’t Plans Greater Control Over Academy of Sciences’ Budget

2018.06.15.

According to recent press reports, the Orbán government’s present draft budget includes a seemingly technical modification that would, according to critics, undermine the autonomy of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA). Accordingly, it has sparked heated criticism among scientists and academics.

To date, the MTA was funded out of direct budget support, meaning that the leaders of the Academy could decide directly on the distribution of the money. Now, however, if the draft passes, approximately half of the funding, some 25 billion forints (Eur 78 million) would come through the newly established Ministry of Innovation and Technology, led by László Palkovics. In other words, a government ministry would potentially have a say in the distribution of funding, research programs and human resource issues as well, which would threaten the autonomy of Hungary’s leading academic institution.

The Stadium28 Circle, a forum made up of Academy members, has vocally condemned what it has described as

yet another assault on the autonomy of science,

on the part of the Orbán government, citing the government’s attack on CEU as an example. In view of these previous, similar measures, the Circle argued that this “coup-like” decision, which has been made without any previous negotiation, is not surprising. It is, however, outrageous, and with its implementation the government would fundamentally endanger the existence and operation of academic and scientific activities in Hungary,  the circle’s communique says.

Mathematician László Lovász, Re-elected as President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Expresses Support for CEU

And in response, László Lovász, the president of Hungarian Academy of Sciences, convened an extraordinary meeting of the MTA today. At the press conference held after the meeting, in a reportedly tense atmosphere, Lovász told journalists that it is “regrettable” that the government didn’t enter into negotiations with the Academy before publishing the draft and that in his opinion

the draft doesn’t guarantee that the academy and scientific life as a whole could preserve its autonomy.

 

Government Reaction

László Palkovics, who himself a member of  the MTA, insisted that the government doesn’t intend to nationalize, cut funding, or extend control over the institution. Instead, the Minister claimed  that the purpose of the modification is the coordination of resources, and a more effective operation of the system. In addition, he argued that the distribution will be coordinated free of politics, by a committee which would be exclusively made up of independent scholars.

 

via index.hu, merce.hu, mta.hu, stadium28.hu, 444.hu

featured image via MTI