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Following months of protests from the academic community in Hungary and science organisations from across Europe (see ACA Newsletter - Education Europe, February 2019), the Hungarian government passed a bill on 2 July, which will strip the country’s Academy of Sciences of its +/- 40 research institutes and its guaranteed funding and transform the institution into a government agency, called the Eötvös Loránd Research Network (ELKH). The agency will be under the Ministry for Innovation and Technology.
The researchers of the Academy of Science object to the new governance and funding structure. They fear a loss of the academic freedom, the institutional independence and the autonomy of science they have so far enjoyed. Amongst other things, they will lose control of their own budget and will, as it appears, have to apply for projects on a competitive basis. The government denies any intention to infringe on the autonomy of the institution. It points out that the move is to make Hungarian research contribute more to innovation, by moving from basic to applied research. It also stresses that it wants to see more research done and that it intends to increase the budget already next year. Despite of this, researchers fear that the ELKH will stifle basic research and shift the focus of research in the social sciences to areas on the government’s political agenda. In a statement of 4 July, ALLEA (All European Academies), declared that its member academies “reject the claim of the Hungarian government that the ELKH will produce more innovative science”.
In a letter published on the German newspaper DIE ZEIT on 3 July, ten member organisations of the Alliance of Science Organisations in Germany, including ACA member DAAD, reminded the Hungarian Prime Minister of the importance of “having well-defined, separate functions for science and policymakers” in order to safeguard “the integrity of research in the public interest”.
The law still needs to be ratified by Hungary’s President János Àder. It is expected to enter into force in August.