Protest for the Academy of Sciences

Government plans to reorganise the structure and funding of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA) have triggered protests from opposition parties on Tuesday.

The leftist Democratic Coalition (DK) said the government has made decisions that ignore the interests of the Academy and the staff of MTA institutes, DK deputy group leader Gergely Arato told a press conference. As a consequence of the planned measures, researchers and scientists are expected to leave Hungary by the thousands, he added. The government is “angry with” MTA and Hungarian scientists obviously for political reasons, he said.

Group spokesman Zsolt Greczy said that Hungarian scientists and their workshops could be destroyed by cuts in MTA funds. He said he would ask the head of parliament’s budget committee to revisit issues concerning the MTA budget. Innovation and Technology Minister Laszlo Palkovics arbitrarily wants to overwrite the MTA budget figures, which could potentially be a violation of the law, he said.

The conservative Jobbik party told another press conference that the insecurity created by the government would cause severe and long-term damage to Hungarian scientific life. “Fidesz’s anti-knowledge, anti-intellectual policies have reached a new level,” deputy group leader Koloman Brenner said.

Brenner said that “as a people’s party”, Jobbik stands for the freedom of sciences and education, stresseing the need of a “sensible policy discussion on modernising the MTA and converging universities and scientific research.” Palkovics’s “Bolshevik-type exercise of power” has caused irreparable damage to 21st-century Hungarian science, he said.

Orban addresses young scientists

Prime Minister Viktor Orban called for cooperation and joint efforts to promote Hungary’s scientific reputation and competitiveness in an open letter to young scientists who have recently voiced their disapproval of the government’s planned changes to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

The scientists, all winners of scholarships in a government programme that helped them return to Hungary from other countries, had said in their earlier letter to the prime minister that “the current changes, implemented without meaningful consultations and the uncertainty arising from it will destroy the basis for Hungary’s innovation potential in the long term”. Signatories to the letter called on the government to suspend the “rushed and ill-considered” changes to research and innovation financing.

Orban said in his response published on his website that “we are on the same foundations: we all seek the benefit of Hungarian science and that of Hungarian people.” He added, however, that “the scientific community and the government may see certain issues from different viewpoints and may have different approaches”.

“It is important that we are not guided by quasi-information in our dialogue but the shared goal of increasing the reputation of Hungarian science and the competitiveness of the country”,

Orban said.

Concerning the planned changes, Orban argued that “increasing the value added of domestic industry is not possible unless research institutes concentrate their resources both in basic research and innovation” and said that scientists would be provided state financing for “clear-cut areas” of research.

The government’s goal is to build “an optimum, more responsible and more transparent system free of the burdens of red tape,” Orban said, adding that “the freedom of scientific research must not be harmed”.

Source and photo: MTI

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