EducationFeatureFirst Drafts

Resolution by the Leaders of the Academy Research Network

New amendments will effectively give the government complete political control over the entire Hungarian research network

Hungarian intellectuals held a demonstration in Budapest on Sunday June 2 in protest of the Hungarian government’s intention to pass new amendments over the next few days without first providing an opportunity for debate with the wider academic community These amendments will effectively give the government complete political control over the entire Hungarian research network. With this latest attack on the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, which follows the attack on the Central European University, talented scientists will be forced to leave the country if they do not cooperate with the regime.
On June 4, the ruling Fidesz party proposed a new law in Parliament, asking for official authorization to move forward with their plan. Given their 2/3 majority, they will no doubt succeed. – Judith Freidlander

A resolution by the Board of Directors of the Academy Research Centres regarding the necessary law amendment to transform the structure and financing of the research, development and the innovation system has been passed unanimously by the Board, apart from two abstentions.

The recommended law amendments do not correspond with the agreements previously reached between the Ministry for Innovation and Technology and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, nor with the German research network models which were cited many times by the ministry.

The recommended law amendments are clearly unconstitutional. Namely, they violate article XIII, which deals with property rights. According to the proposed law amendments, the property and estates of the Academy are to be freely and obligatorily leased for an indefinite period of time, lacking compensation or a relevant contract.

The recommended law amendments do not guarantee the future basic funding of the research centers and without basic funding the centers will not be able to function as scientific research facilities.

According to the recommended law amendments, the sitting prime minister would not only appoint the president of the board presiding over the research network, but also individual members. This solution would not guarantee the true parity of the board, which is professionally indispensable when it comes to conducting scientific work. The amendments do not guarantee that the delegates of the research institutes will be members of the board.

Contrary to earlier agreements, the recommended law amendments do not guarantee a fixed time period for the research network, and any kind of planned reorganization can be passed by a simple majority of the Board instead of a qualified majority.

We find it alarming that the amendment does not specify that directors be appointed according to the current standards of an open tender procedure as well as by a qualified majority of the board.

Considering that the minister responsible would appoint the financial manager of the secretariat of the research network, the new governing structure calls the autonomy of the research network into question.

The law amendments effectively provide for complete governmental and political control over the research network, which stands in stark contrast to the German model continuously cited by the ministry. This endeavor, together with the proposed structure of the National Science Policy Council and the increased role of the minister within the council, potentially jeopardizes the independence of scientific research and science, which is otherwise guaranteed in the constitution.

Based on the above, the Board of Directors of the Academy Research Centres calls on the government to modify its amendment of the law to correspond to the proposals made consensually by the Strategic Committee, which was signed by both parties. It is the view of the Board that in its current form the amendment does not provide a sustainable and working institutional framework for proper scientific research.

28 May 2019

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Judith Friedlander

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