Hungarian academy to draw up alternative research budget

Hungarian Academy of Sciences will ‘continue negotiations’ after government bid to take charge of research financing

July 3, 2018
Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Source: iStock

The Hungarian Academy of Sciences is set to put forward an “alternative proposal” for the country’s research budget, after the government moved to put the Ministry of Innovation and Technology in charge of financing research institutions, seen as the latest attack on sector autonomy by the authoritarian Orbán administration.

In a statement, the academy said that it would “continue negotiations” with the ministry about the 2019 budget bill but said that from its point of view, the “opinions of academy and ministry leaders got slightly closer” during talks last week.

It added that on “request” from the innovation and technology minister László Palkovics, it will “give an alternative proposal concerning the budget”.

Both the academy and ministry agree that “exploratory basic research must be separated from targeted research” in the budget but they are still debating the amount of money that should be allocated directly to the academy.

The Hungarian government’s 2019 budget bill, which was tabled last month, announced that 28 billion forints (£76 million) of the 40 billion forints allocated to the academy in the state budget would be transferred to the recently established Ministry of Innovation and Technology in 2019.

The budget change, alongside a proposed amendment to the law that controls the academy’s activities, would result in the ministry being in charge of financing research institutions.

The academy said that it had not been properly consulted about the changes, stating that the ministry informed it about the proposed amendment on 12 June and “requested the academy deliver its opinion and respond within an unrealistically short deadline”. 

There are concerns that the changes will lead to the government defining research topics, evaluating scientific proposals, and funding applied research over basic research. Hungarian academics have also expressed fears that restrictions will be placed on their access to research funding from the European Union.

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