Change is coming to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences

Parliament passed today a new bill that will devote significantly more funds to research and modernise what was becoming an obsolete research academy.

Two key points here: Concerning direction and priorities, if the state funds research then it gets to have a say in the priorities. Under these new rules, the government won’t tell the academy what to research or how, but the new management structure will set priorities. Secondly, there are now significantly more resources available for research.

Passed by a vote of 131 for and 53 against, the new legislation aims to modernise an increasingly obsolete, ineffective public body that is funded by the state. The changes will bring a new organizational structure that will put competitiveness into the focus while also improving the quality of research.

The work and financial standing of the Academy had received widespread criticism in recent years. As I wrote on a previous post, “Q & A on the Hungarian Academy of Sciences,” the place has been

“underperforming. In 2018, for example, the number of starting grants awarded to Hungary in the European Research Council’s support program was zero. Meanwhile, Israel won 23 in the same year. 23:0.

“Similarly, an EU report on one of the most important indicators of scientific performance, the number of highly cited publications compared to all publications, shows that the work of the Academy (widely known by its Hungarian abbreviation, MTA) is well below the average, scoring somewhere in the bottom 20 percent.”

All this led many to believe that the work conducted by the Academy is not worth the investment.

To modernise the organisation, the government will appoint two, private bodies responsible for outlining the main priorities and allocation of funds. The Eötvös Loránd Research Network (or ELKH) will serve as the head of the research network, using the headquarters of the Academy. The ELKH will be supervised by a board comprising six members of the Academy and six MPs, each of whom will be appointed directly by the prime minister.