MTA’s General Assembly to decide on the future of research network

The Presidium of the Academy (the main decision-making body of the Academy between two general assemblies) met on 21 March 2019. The directors of the MTA research centres and independent research institutes were also invited to the meeting.

László Lovász, President of the Academy, informed the Presidium and the directors about the latest results of the ongoing negotiations with the ITM, including the declaration of intent signed on 8 March 2019.

The executives, the Presidium and the leaders of the research network agreed that the future of the research network should be decided by the General Assembly. The Hungarian Academy of Sciences – in line with the resolutions passed by the most recent extraordinary General Assembly – continues to promote the idea of the research network staying with the MTA, whilst reconsidering its management system.

This is supported by the background material compiled by the directors of the MTA’s research centres and independent research institutes, sent to the President on 18 March. The aim of this initiative is to “help find solutions regarding the organisation of the research network to ensure that freedom of research is not threatened and research standards live up to international norms. Furthermore, that relevant laws and statutes are abided by and the system is maintained sensibly and effectively”. One of the focal points of the document is that the ITM still has not provided reasons as to why the research network of the Academy should be restructured, especially with regard to the loosening of the relationship between the MTA and its research network. The primary recommendation outlined in the document is that the research network should belong to the Academy, but the present management model relying on the General Assembly should be revised.

The Academy is continuing negotiations with the ITM based on this document, as well as the opinions of the leaders of the Momentum (Lendület) Research Groups, the opinions of the community of Academy workers and other opinions provided by the scientific community.

Negotiating committees

The MTA and the ITM are to set up two committees (instead of the originally suggested four) to continue negotiations. The members delegated by the President of the MTA are as follows:

Committee for strategy and professional organisation: László Kollár, Head of Department (leader of the committee from MTA); Eörs Szathmáry, Director General; Ferenc Oberfrank, Managing Director; Gábor Prószéky, Director; Gergely Szakács, Researcher (awarded an ERC grant). Professional assistance is offered by Tamás Freund and József Bokor, Vice President.

Committee for legal, operational and financial issues: Zsuzsa Medve, Head of Department (leader of the committee from the MTA); Zsuzsa Mizsei, Chief Financial Officer; László Kökényesi, Chief Financial Officer; Gergely Bőhm, Head of Department. Professional assistance is offered by Ádám Török, Secretary General, and Lajos Vékás, Vice President.

On the audit of the Academy

At the presidential meeting, the presidents of three scientific committees of the Council of Research Institutes of the Academy reported on the preliminary results of the comprehensive audit. As is well known, the Academy carried out a professional audit over the past three months. The audit took place on the request of the ITM, with the help of international experts, according to international standards. The analysis of the data is still in progress, but it is already certain that the audit confirmed that the research network of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences ranks as one of the best research networks in Europe. The performance of the network is excellent, and there are several research workshops on the cutting edge of science which can be regarded as national treasures. Consequently, there is no fundamental need to reconstruct the research network. The final results of the audit will be published after 16 April 2019.

Overhead costs

The ITM has informed the MTA in a letter that they wish to provide a large share of the operational resources granted by law to the MTA research centres and individual research institutes until 31 May 2019. The ITM is to transfer the relevant sums directly to the institutes. The MTA has not submitted their research institutes’ needs for the grants offered by the Thematic Area Excellence Program 2019.

The Hungarian Academy Staff Forum (HASF) organised a demonstration in front of the Palace of the Academy for the duration of the Presidium’s meeting, in support of the Academy. Later, the demonstrators walked over to the ITM and delivered a petition to the Ministry.