Hungarian Academics’ Open Letter to Manfred Weber, the Group Chair of the European People’s Party

Dear Mr. Weber,

This open letter is a cry for help. We, Hungarian scientists, scholars and university professors turn to you for help in a most serious matter: The Hungarian Government has proposed legislation that would change the Hungarian research landscape dramatically, which tramples on the rule of constitutional law and on basic democratic principles.

The Hungarian Academy of Sciences is an almost 200-year-old institution with numerous research centers and a network of research groups hosted by universities. The centers and institutes are under the self-governance of the Academy and are internationally reviewed regularly. The overall performance of these institutes is good, especially in comparison to the level of funding they receive.

Hungarian Academy of Sciences is the most important and prestigious learned society of Hungary. Its seat is at the bank of the Danube in Budapest.

According to the proposed legislation, the research centers and institutes would be separated from the Academy and organized into a new entity, governed by a board composed of 50 % governmental delegates. Moreover, the plan is to have a further council above this board, entirely consisting of delegates of the government. All the persons in these bodies would be appointed by the Prime Minister. All the assets of the Academy, including real estate, facilities, and all equipment would be used by the new organization without any compensation to the Academy.

The legislation was preceded by a one-year struggle between the government and the Academy. The Government has failed to present any reasonable argument or impact assessment. The leadership of the Academy has unanimously condemned the attack on academic freedom, has presented clear arguments in favor of keeping the institutes within the organization of the Academy and has shown gestures of readiness for compromise. These were swept aside.

The General Assembly of the Hungarian Academy voted twice with an overwhelming majority against the intentions of the Government. The research community has organized itself into the so-called Hungarian Academy Staff Forum. Multiple demonstrations were held, manifestos and protests were published – in vain. We have run out of options.

Prime Minister Mr. Orbán, the leader of the ruling FIDESZ party seems to intend to stay with his party within the EPP in the new legislature. He already ordered concessions to comply with the democratic requirements put forward to him by EPP, like the withdrawal of the system of courts for public administration or that of the special tax for advertisements. The new legislation, which violates the right to academic freedom, and the right to property, is a severe attack on the democratic order and principles. We ask you to put pressure on Mr. Orbán to withdraw the legislation about the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

With best regards,

1 Janos Kertesz Member of the H.A.S. Physicist Professor

2 Pal Acs DSc Literary Historian Professor

3 Julianna Kardos DSc Neurochemist Professor

4 Gyorgy Bazsa DSc Chemist Professor

5 Istvan Fabian DSc Chemist Professor

6 Istvan Juhasz Member of the H.A.S. Mathematician Res. Prof.

7 Janos Szepvolgyi DSc Chem. Engineer Professor

8 Mihaly Laki DSc Economist Res. Prof.

9 Andras Kornai DSc Mathematician, linguist Professor

10 Tamas Vicsek Member of the H.A.S. Physicist Professor

11 Maria Csanadi DSc Economist Res. Prof.

12 Andras Recski DSc Mathematician Professor

13 Denes Lajos Nagy DSc Physicist Professor

14 Roza Vajda Member of the H.A.S. Economist Professor

15 Ilona Kovacs Member of the H.A.S. Psychologist Professor

16 Judit Gardos PhD Sociologist Research fellow

17 Zsuzsa Hetenyi DSc Literary Historian Professor

18 Peter Mihalyi DSc Economist Professor

19 Sandor Gorog Member of the H.A.S. Chemist Professor

20 Miklos Szanyi DSc Economist Professor

21 Gabor Korosi DSc Economist Professor

22 Laszlo Solti Member of the H.A.S. Veterinarian surgeon Professor, Rector

23 Gabriella Csik PhD Biophysicist Assoc. Professor

24 Peter Major Member of the H.A.S. Mathematician Professor

25 Miklos Koren PhD Economist Professor

26 Lajos Nyikos DSc Chemist Professor

27 Tibor Vamos Member of the H.A.S. Comp. Scientist Professor

28 Agnes Heller Member of the H.A.S. Philosopher Professor

29 Miklos Laczkovich Member of the H.A.S. Mathematician Professor

30 Sandor Zsolt Kovacs MSc Economist Researcher

31 Gabor Elek DSc Mathematician Professor

32 Andras Mate CSc Logician Senior Res. Fellow

33 Marta Fulop CSc Psychologist Professor

34 Gabor Klaniczay DSc Historian Professor

35 Karoly Heberger DSc Chemist Professor

36 Andras Simonovits DSc Mathematician Professor

37 Zoltan Grunhut PhD Economist Research fellow

38 Istvan Mayer DSc Physicist Res. Prof.

39 Erno Marosi Member of the H.A.S. Art Historian Professor

40 Zoltan Furedi Member of the H.A.S. Mathematician Res. Prof.

41 Annamaria Inzelt DSc Economist Professor

42 Andras Varadi DSc, Member of the Acad. Eu. Chemist Professor

43 Anna Erdei Member of the H.A.S. Immunologist Professor

44 Balazs Lengyel PhD Economist Senior Res. Fellow

45 Laszlo Halpern DSc Economist Sci. Advisor

46 Erzsebet Szalai DSc Sociologist Professor

47 Aniko Biro PhD Economist Senior Res. Fellow

48 Andras Frank Member of the H.A.S. Mathematician Professor

49 Dora Gyorffy DSc Political economist Professor

50 Pal Venetianer Member of the H.A.S. & Acad Eu. Biologist Professor

51 Baint Toth DSc, Member of the Acad. Eu. Mathematician Professor

52 Endre Rev DSc Chemical Eng. Professor

53 Peter Somlai DSc Sociologist Professor

54 Bela Gerskovits PhD Political scientist Professor

55 Bulcsu Bognar PhD Sociologist Assoc. Professor

56 Janos Kollo DSc Economist Senior Res. Fellow

57 Ferenc Hudecz Member of the H.A.S. Chemist Professor

58 Ferenc Tallar DSc Philosopher Professor

59 Hans-Martin Gaertner PhD Linguist Res. Professor

60 Imre Voros Member of the H.A.S. Lawyer Professor

61 Miklos Simonyi DSc Chemist Sci. Advisor

62 Zoltan Homonnay DSc Chemist Professor

63 Marton Szilagyi DSc Literary Historian Professor

64 Zoltan Bajnok DSc Physicist Sci. Advisor

65 Vanda Lamm Member of the H.A.S. Lawyer Professor

66 Jozsef Somogyi PhD Engineer researcher

67 Gyorgyi Barta DSc Economist Sci. Advisor

68 Gabriella Bohm DSc Physicist Sci. Advisor

69 Orsolya Szalardy PhD Biologist Research fellow

70 Imre Z. Ruzsa Member of the H.A.S. Mathematician Res. Professor

71 Edit Fenyvesi PhD Physicist Researcher

72 Gabor Oszlanyi DSc Physicist Sci. Advisor

73 Gergely Harcos DSc Mathematician Sci. Advisor

74 Gabor Blasko Member of the H.A.S. Chemist Professor

75 Janos M. Rainer Member of the H.A.S. Historian Professor

76 Istvan Kenesei Member of the H.A.S. Linguist Professor

77 Gabor Vargyas DSc Cult. Anthropologist Professor

78 Hubert Janos Kiss PhD Economist Senior Res. Fellow

79 Eva Gyarmathy PhD Psychologist Senior Res. Fellow

80 Ferenc Eros DSc Psychologist Professor

81 Miklos Menyhard DSc Physicist Professor

82 Zsuzsanna Marton PhD Physicist Assoc. Professor

83 Peter Nemeth PhD Geologist Researcher

84 Domokos Szasz Member of the H.A.S. & Acad Eu. Mathematician Professor

85 Gabor Takacs DSc Physicist Professor

86 Marianne Blazso DSc Chemist Sci. Advisor

87 Gabor Lente DSc Chemist Profesor

88 Gabor Timar PhD Geophysicist Assoc. Professor

89 Peter Gurin PhD Physicist Assoc. Professor

90 Ferenc Simon DSc Physicist Professor

91 Tamas Bauer Dr. Economist Professor

92 Robert Freud CSc Mathematician Assoc. Professor

93 Julia Szalai Member of the H.A.S. Sociologist Professor

94 Judit Gervai PhD Behavior scientist Professor

95 Laszlo Majtenyi DSc Lawyer Professor

96 David Visontai PhD Physicist Research fellow

97 Ellak Somfai DSc Physicist Sci. Advisor

98 Annamaria Sinkovics PhD Physicist Senior Res. Fellow

99 Gabriella Pasztor PhD Physicist Senior Res. Fellow

100 Krisztina Demeter DSc Economist Professor

101 Zsofia Anna Gaal PhD psychologist Senior Res. Fellow

102 Edit Szilagyi DSc Physicist Sci. Advisor

103 Lajos Diosi DSc Physicist Professor

104 Tamas Pajkossy DSc Physicist Sci. Advisor

105 Balazs Sarkadi Member of the H.A.S. Biologist Professor

106 Andras Suto DSc Physicist Res. Professor

107 Arpad Lukacs PhD Physicist postdoctoral fellow

108 Csaba Bagyinka DSc Biologist Res. Advisor

109 Laszlo Bencze PhD Chemist Assoc. Professor

110 Andras Szucs Member of the H.A.S. Mathematician Professor

111 Miklos Mesterhazi PhD Philosopher Senior Res. Fellow

112 Imre Barany Member of the H.A.S. Mathematician Professor

113 Gyorgy Lengyel DSc Sociologist Professor

114 Adrienn Molnar PhD Economist postdoctoral fellow

115 Tibor Valuch DSc Historian Professor

116 Andras Janossy Member of the H.A.S. Physicist Professor

117 Attila Kunfi MSc Chemist PhD student

118 Karoly Takacs PhD Sociologist Senior Res. Fellow

119 Gabor Katona PhD Physicist Assistant Professor

120 Andras Falus Member of the H.A.S. Biologist Professor

121 Balazs Patkos PhD Mathematician Senior Res. Fellow

122 Laszlo Kalman CSc Theor. Linguist Assistant Professor

123 Gabor Recski PhD Linguist Assistant Professor

124 Laszlo Heja PhD Neurochemist Research fellow

125 Balazs Hangya PhD Neurochemist Research fellow

7 Comments

  1. The overhaul, of Science academy, which Budapest said was needed to reap more economic benefits as Hungary tries to shift towards more innovative industries, has triggered protests from civil groups and academics.

    This makes total sense. Hungary does not have money to waste.

    However, going for help to foreigners is unpatriotic.

  2. The recent attempt by the Hungarian government to split off the research institute network from the Academy of Sciences is a good move. The current structure of the Academy with its research networks does not serve the country well. This left over relic of the soviet era should have been fixed thirty years ago as it was in most of the transition economies.

    The MTA like all academies of sciences should be an advisory body. This is the case in almost all countries in the OECD today. Hungary is an outlier in this case and the reforms are long overdue. As a first step the research network should be spun off and a firewall established between the MTA and the research network.

    The research institutes should be bought much closer to the universities as many of the researchers already hold some kind of appointment at the leading universities. This is an administrative undertaking and it should be done by a committee representing the research institutes, the universities and the government.

    The scientific sections of the university should be reduced and linguistics, history and most of economics and the other social sciences either sent to the universities or assigned to some other cultural entity. This would leave the main scientific sections as the core of the academy.

    The research network should also be split and the social sciences, history, regional studies etc should be treated differently than the scientific institutes. In this way funding can be directed at the most promising areas.
    The institution of this plan should be funded by the government to allow a smooth transition.

    While the governing mechanism of the MTA is more or less sound the real issue is what will the governing structure of the research institutes look like. In other words who will decide what to fund and at what levels? As we have argued before this should be a mixture of the research institutes, the government and business. There are models for this in many other countries. But the Academy of Sciences should not be involved in this undertaking.

    An issue at the heart of this undertaking is how to get more innovation out of the system. While some have argued for a Max Planck type of set up that is not what will lead to more innovation. If that is the goal perhaps the Fraunofer Instsitute in Germany.

    “The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft is the leading organization for applied research in Europe. Its research activities are conducted by 72 institutes and research units at locations throughout Germany. Affiliated international research centers and representative offices provide contact with the regions of greatest importance to present and future scientific progress and economic development.”
    This would achieve several goals all of which are important for the future of Hungary.

    First, it would strengthen and streamline the MTA as an organization that can give objective advice. It should have its endowment restored and it should be able to secure funding from various sources. This would remove all conflict of interest between and MTA and he research network.

    Second, the research institutes once they are independent can be treated on their own merit, aligned with the universities research agenda and strengthen the universities.

    Third, this would enable the focus on innovation and entrepreneurship as the applied leg of this undertaking that is now either non-existent or operating at a sub optimal level could be better focused.

    Forth, the government should undertake an international effort to develop applied technologies in Hungary by inviting partners to pursue applied research through a set of institutes in collaboration with countries at the leading edge of science.

  3. Government-funded means there is no real chance of independence. After all, government should have a say in what it funds. Suggesting otherwise is an insult to the taxpayer. And yes, channeling more money towards useful innovation is sound policy. We saw in North America and Western Europe what “academic freedom” has done. Europe completely missed out on the dot.com information revolution. All significant software or hardware companies of note have been American, and lately Chinese. Even backwards Russia has its domestic champions like Yandex competing successfully with Google.

    Now America is also worried that China will eat it up for breakfast, unless it moves to undermine it before its too late (see trade war). That is because while American academic society has been celebrating every time the grand discovery of a new sexual orientation is made, China has been celebrating a new bridge, a new freeway or a new port.

    Meantime, in Europe generations of elites and their brainwashed educated fools they have as supporters, are mostly preoccupied on how to achieve ethno-cultural suicide through mass colonization of their own native habitat, while contemplating unilateral (and futile) economic suicide in the name of saving the world from climate change.

    Yes, Hungary should follow the same path! Right away! Without delay! All suicide cults tend to resent those who do not want to swallow the cool aid.

  4. András B. Göllner says:

    @ Joe

    “Government-funded means there is no real chance of independence. After all, government should have a say in what it funds. Suggesting otherwise is an insult to the taxpayer.”

    How is it that except for Hungary, all of the EU member states can refrain from the political control of their Academy of Sciences ? State funding for the sciences does NOT mean political control by the ruling political party in any of these countries.

    The Canada Council, or the The Social Sciences and Humaities Research Councilof Canada is funded by the Canadian State, but it is not managed by whoever happens to sneak into power by the seat of his or her pants.

    Why don’t you go back to your troll farm Joe, and instead of spreading horsemanure, water your eggplants.

  5. András B. Göllner says:

    @ Zoltan Acs

    “An issue at the heart of this undertaking is how to get more innovation out of the system.”

    You don’t say, Acs?

    What kind of innovation, Acs? Academic prostitution perhaps? Or the subjugation of academia to the whims of petty criminals, and autocrats like Viktor Orbán, who is the leader of the pack in Europe in the assault on social justice, the rule of law and sustainable economic development?

    Ho did you get into this underpass Acs? Are you perhaps a friend and associate of Mr. Kov acs, the spokesperson of the engineer of that mini-train that runs on EU taxpayers money in Mr. Orbán’s backyard?

  6. András B. Göllner says:

    @ Stevan Harnad

    “Only 125?”

    No. The petition has been signed by more than 1,500 scholars. Why not join in. Grab your pen and help us to reach our goal of 2000 signatures. Be a good sport. This IS related to animal rights. 🙂

    Just click on the URL and you’re off and running.

    https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/mta-weber?fbclid=IwAR3s9xKarTrScjb9-kx4lX8KKaoeISQh2KH9eeONr09pg0a0YSF2vK6mrbw

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