Joint statement of Hungarian ERC grant winners regarding Government plans concerning the budgetary funding and operation of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences

Hungarian scientists awarded the „international scientific Olympic golden medal” declare that a decision changing the conditions of the funding and managing of a national institution with an almost 200-year-old history can only be successful if it is built on coordinated and meaningful prior consultations.

ERC Grant winning Hungarian scientists, an award presented to top European scientists, are also standing up for the funding of the MTA and basic research to remain as it is. The European Research Council (ERC) operates the European Union’s largest grant system funding exploratory research. The ERC’s mission is to provide long term support for pioneering, high risk but highly promising research projects. The sole prerequisite for winning this grant is scientific excellence. Leading scientists who plan to pursue research in Europe can apply for the ERC Grant without any prerequisites regarding age, gender or home country.

The strength of basic or exploratory research in Hungary is reflected by the fact that Hungarian researchers excel in the region even in this field. Out of a total of 168 grants awarded to the EU13 countries, 69 grants were won by Hungary, which is 41 percent of all awarded grants. Out of these 69 grants, the MTA research institutes won 31 grants, and a further 9 grants were awarded to joint research by the Academy and universities.

Innovation, future technologies and fresh knowledge about the world and mankind itself all stem from basic research.

The majority of Hungarian ERC Grant winners have already signed the following letter of support, which we are hereby publishing below without any changes:

Following the disconcerting events over the past few weeks we wish to express our full support for the resolution of the Presidium of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences adopted unanimously on 15 June 2018. We call on the Hungarian Government to withdraw the proposed amendment of the Law on the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (Act XL of 1994) as well as its proposal to cut the Academy’s direct budgetary support.

The proposal on the State budget of Hungary for 2019 would hand over two-thirds of the budget of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA) to be under the direct supervision of the Ministry of Innovation and Technology resulting in fundamental changes in the financing and the control exercised over its operations. The proposal would furthermore provide grounds for decisions regarding the administration of the Academy’s research network and the selection of research priorities to be made without the consent of the Academy’s leadership.

We are convinced that any decision aimed at changing the very foundations of the financing and management of a national institution dating back almost 200 years can only be successful if it is based on prior and meaningful consultation with relevant stakeholders. Failing such consultation, the Academy’s leadership and the Hungarian scientific community will not be able to trust Government intentions to create a coordinated research funding concept.

The European Research Council (ERC) awards funding to the most excellent scientists in Europe for their research work offering the potential of a scientific breakthrough. As grantees of the ERC we are standing up for the MTA and for the funding of basic research.

Success in innovation will only come if basic research is pursued on a high level. Genuine scientific breakthroughs are not produced to seek immediate answers to today’s innovation challenges. They are designed rather to widen the scope for future solutions to these, lay the foundations for emerging fields of science, or highlight unexplored trends in our societies. Any approach suggesting that the sole purpose of basic research is to provide the key to today’s innovation challenges can only be deemed short-sighted.

Therefore it is essential that scientific excellence remain the only criterion for funding decisions at the only Hungarian institution dedicated to basic research. It is also essential that the funding for basic research should not be reduced at the expense of industry-driven applied sciences.

Established in 2007, ERC does not predetermine any research objective to follow; researchers are free to apply from across all fields of science. We as ERC grantees hosted in Hungary were all rewarded for our individual research interests and our ideas driven by curiosity. Nevertheless so far we have obtained EU funding for research institutions in Hungary at a rate of over 110 million euros. This is proof that Hungary’s top research institutions, among them the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, have the highest number of ERC grants and provide a solid foundation for Hungary’s efforts to extend its scientific potential by means of basic research projects renowned worldwide.

We hereby call on the Government to change its proposal and call on the Parliament not to pass a decision which would undermine the MTA’s present-day freedom and financial autonomy. In our view the proposed redirection of funds would cause irreversible damage to the integrity of the Academy, would erode the trust of the scientific community in Hungarian science policy, while it would also reverse the fragile achievements of recent years, and threaten to force talented researchers to leave Hungary in pursuit of a more rewarding scientific career.

Budapest, 27 June 2018

Following is a list of all signatories:

Abért Miklós, MTA Rényi Alfréd Matematikai Kutatóintézet

Acsády László, MTA Kísérleti Orvostudományi Kutatóintézet, D.Sc.

Bárány Imre, MTA Rényi Alfréd Matematikai Kutatóintézet, MTA Full Member

Csibra Gergely, Közép-európai Egyetem

Csonka Szabolcs, Budapesti Műszaki és Gazdaságtudományi Egyetem

Dénes Ádám, MTA Kísérleti Orvostudományi Kutatóintézet

Egry Gábor, Politikatörténeti Intézet, D.Sc.

Gergely György, Közép-európai Egyetem, D.Sc.

Gyürky György, MTA Atommagkutató Intézet, D.Sc.

Hangya Balázs, MTA Kísérleti Orvostudományi Kutatóintézet

Kállay Mihály, Budapesti Műszaki és Gazdaságtudományi Egyetem, D.Sc.

Katz Sándor, Eötvös Loránd Tudományegyetem, Corresponding Member

Katona István, MTA Kísérleti Orvostudományi Kutatóintézet, D.Sc.

Knoblich, Günther Klaus, Közép-európai Egyetem

Kocsis Bence, Eötvös Loránd Tudományegyetem

Kondor Péter, Közép-európai Egyetem

Kondorosi Éva, ERC-alelnök, MTA Full Member

Koren Miklós, Közép-európai Egyetem

Kóspál Ágnes, MTA Csillagászati és Földtudományi Kutatóközpont

Kovács Ágnes Melinda, Közép-európai Egyetem

Kovács Levente, Óbudai Egyetem

Kőszegi Botond, Közép-európai Egyetem, az D.Sc.

Krstić, Tijana, Közép-európai Egyetem

Kubinyi Enikő, Eötvös Loránd Tudományegyetem

Lengyel Máté, Közép-európai Egyetem

Lugaro, Maria, MTA Csillagászati és Földtudományi Kutatóközpont

Makara Judit, MTA Kísérleti Orvostudományi Kutatóintézet

Marx Dániel, MTA Számítástechnikai és Automatizálási Kutatóintézet

Mócsai Attila, Semmelweis Egyetem, D.Sc.

Nagy László, MTA Szegedi Biológiai Kutatóközpont

Nusser Zoltán, MTA Full Member

Pál Csaba, MTA Szegedi Biológiai Kutatóközpont, D.Sc.

Pete Gábor, MTA Rényi Alfréd Matematikai Kutatóintézet és Budapesti Műszaki és Gazdaságtudományi Egyetem

Pintz János, MTA Rényi Alfréd Matematikai Kutatóintézet, MTA Full Member

Pócs Éva, MTA Bölcsészettudományi Kutatóközpont, D.Sc.

Pyber László, MTA Rényi Alfréd Matematikai Kutatóintézet, Corresponding Member

Röst Gergely, University of Oxford and Szegedi Tudományegyetem

Sebanz, Natalie, Közép-európai Egyetem

Simon Ferenc, Budapesti Műszaki és Gazdaságtudományi Egyetem, D.Sc.

Sperber, Dan, Közép-európai Egyetem, az MTA tiszteleti tagja

Stipsicz András, MTA Rényi Alfréd Matematikai Kutatóintézet, Corresponding Member

Szabadics János, MTA Kísérleti Orvostudományi Kutatóintézet

Szakács Gergely, MTA Természettudományi Kutatóközpont

Szeidl Ádám, Közép-európai Egyetem

Szöllősi J. Gergely, Eötvös Loránd Tudományegyetem

Takács Károly, MTA Társadalomtudományi Kutatóközpont

Téglás Ernő, Közép-európai Egyetem

Vankó György, MTA Wigner Fizikai Kutatóközpont

Vicsek Tamás, Eötvös Loránd Tudományegyetem, MTA Full Member