Open letter to PM by the Lendület grant winners

We, the principal investigators of the “Lendület” program for excellence in research, have read with absolute incomprehension the draft law that László Palkovics (Ministry for Innovation and Technology, or ITM) intends to present to Parliament regarding scientific research in Hungary. The draft law aims to restructure scientific research in Hungary – in particular, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA) and its research network – without the agreement of those affected, and despite their explicit objections.

Dear Mr Prime Minister, dear Members of the Government:

For the open letter on the website of the "Lendület" grant awardees click here!We, the principal investigators of the “Lendület” program for excellence in research, have read with absolute incomprehension the draft law that László Palkovics (Ministry for Innovation and Technology, or ITM) intends to present to Parliament regarding scientific research in Hungary. The draft law aims to restructure scientific research in Hungary – in particular, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA) and its research network – without the agreement of those affected, and despite their explicit objections.

We emphatically urge You not to support the aforementioned ill-considered draft law, which is not justifiable by professional reasoning, and, as such, is extraordinarily harmful in its present form. It cannot be in the interest of Hungary to affect a restructuring which the overwhelming majority of the Hungarian scientific community opposes and rejects on professional grounds. The draft law throws aside the results of the negotiations of the past months – which were accepted even by the ITM – and goes directly against the recommendations for reform accepted by the Assembly of the MTA, which took into account the publicly articulated professional requirements of the Government.

The most problematic elements of the Palkovics draft law are the following:

  1. The unilateral restructuring, proposed without a comprehensive analysis or impact study and pushed forward despite opposing professional arguments, deepens the crisis of confidence, causes a set-back to the innovation goals, and erodes the competitive advantage in the scientific sector, further deteriorating the damage inflicted during the past year.
  2. The draft law seizes control over research from the hands of the scientific community. It places scientific decision-making under direct political control, in stark contrast to the principles of research policy based on the self-governance of the scientific community, which proved successful in international practice (such as the Haldane principle), and in contradiction with tried and tested international models such as the operational principles active in the Max Planck Society in Germany or the CNRS in France.
  3. The draft law contradicts the provisions of the Basic Law protecting the freedom of scientific research and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA). Moreover, it ignores the corporate assessment of the Hungarian scientific community and the MTA. In particular:
    1. only one third of the new governing body (the National Council of Research Policy) of the National Research, Development and Innovation Office (NKFIH), and less than half of the proposed new Eötvös Loránd Research Network (ELKH) would be represented by the scientific community independent of the Government;
    2. it discards the form of governance accepted by the Assembly on a professional basis, which required an equal proportion of representation between the Government, the MTA, and the Research Network;
    3. it rejects the operational form as a public body, which was adopted by consensus;
    4. neither the appointment of institute directors and bursars, nor the dissolution and founding of new institutions and centers, or the admission of institutions into the research network would require a qualified majority;
    5. it makes no provisions for the open call procedure of appointing directors;
    6. the accepted 1-year moratorium on the founding, dissolution and admission of new institutions is missing;
    7. it fails to invite independent international partners (e.g. the Max Planck Society) into the process elaborating the details of the new structure;
    8. it provides no guarantees for the preservation of the real value of direct (not grant-based) funding, or for predictable growth in the next 5 years.
  1. By a unilateral legal act of the state, the draft law obliges the MTA (“charges the MTA with the task”) to transfer the right of use over its assets, establishing a dangerous precedent for nationalization that is highly destructive to the legal order.
  2. Via the lack of a transparent and stable funding system, the draft law creates an unpredictable environment. Predictable conditions and a stable institutional environment are indispensable for high-quality research and for keeping excellent researchers in the country.
  3. A transformation following the pathway envisaged in the draft law will inflict terrible damage on the international prestige of scientific research in Hungary, jeopardizing its success in the international – including EU – scientific funding landscape.

In the letter written in response to the previous letter by the principal investigators in the “Lendület” program, Mr Prime Minister expressly stated that no value must or can be lost in the planned restructuring, and that the freedom of scientific research would not be impaired. If the draft law were to be accepted, irreplaceable national values would be lost, and even in the short term, irreparable scientific, cultural and economic damage would be done. The continually deepening crisis of confidence threatens to lead to the emigration of our internationally competitive young researchers, and ultimately to the loss of an entire generation of scientists.

Budapest, 29 May 2019

Signed by the following “Lendület” grant winners (until 8pm on 31 May, 104 signatories):

Abért, Miklós, MTA RAMKI, Lendület Groups and Graphs Research Group, 2012

Ablonczy, Balázs, MTA BTK, Lendület Trianon 100 Research Group, 2016

Abonyi, János, MTA-PE, Lendület Complex Systems Monitoring Research Group, 2017

Adamik, Béla, MTA NYTI, Lendület Computational Latin Dialectology Research Group, 2015

Andics, Attila, MTA-ELTE, Lendület Neuroethology of Communication Research Group, 2017

Bajnok, Zoltán, MTA Wigner FK, Lendület Holographic Quantum Field Theory Research Group, 2012

Báldi, András, MTA ÖK, Lendület Ecosystem Services Research Research Group, 2011

Barta, Zoltán, MTA-DE, Lendület Behavioural Ecology Research Group, 2012

Bárth, Dániel, MTA-ELTE, Lendület Historical Folkloristics Research Group, 2018

Batáry, Péter, MTA ÖK, Lendület Landscape and Conservation Ecology Research Group, 2018

Beke-Somfai, Tamás, MTA TTK, Lendület Biomolecular Self-assembly Research Group, 2016

Benczúr, András, MTA SZTAKI, Lendület Big Data Research Group, 2012

Bíró, Anikó, MTA KRTK, Lendület Health and Population Research Group, 2018

Biró, Péter, MTA KRTK, Lendület Mechanism Design Research Group, 2016

Csanády, László, MTA-SE, Lendület Ion Channel Research Group, 2012

Csonka, Szabolcs, MTA-BME, Lendület Nanoelectronics Research Group, 2017

Csörsz, Rumen István, MTA BTK, Lendület Literary Culture in Western Hungary (1770–1820) Research Group, 2017

Dalos, Anna, MTA BTK, Lendület 20th and 21st Century Hungarian Music Archive and Research Group, 2012

Demeter, Tamás, MTA BTK, Lendület Morals and Science Research Group, 2017

Dénes, Ádám, MTA KOKI, Lendület Neuroimmunology Research Group, 2016

Derényi, Imre, MTA-ELTE, Lendület Biophysics Research Group, 2011

Dombi, Péter, MTA Wigner FK, Lendület Ultrafast Nanooptics Research Group, 2014

Domokos, Péter, MTA Wigner FK, Lendület Quantum Measurement Research Group, 2011

Dóra, Balázs, MTA-BME, Lendület Topology and Correlation Research Group, 2018

Dosztányi, Zsuzsanna, MTA-ELTE, Lendület Bioinformatics Research Group, 2014

Enyedi, Balázs, MTA-SE, Lendület Tissue Damage Research Group, 2018

Erdélyi, Gabriella, MTA BTK, Lendület Integrating Families Research Group, 2017

Fuxreiter, Mónika, MTA-DE, Lendület Protein Dynamics Research Group, 2012

Geiszt, Miklós, MTA-SE, Lendület Peroxidase Enzyme Research Group, 2011

Gyurcsányi, E. Róbert, MTA-BME, Lendület Chemical Nanosensors Research Group, 2013

Hájos, Norbert, MTA KOKI, Lendület Network Neurophysiology Research Group, 2012

Hangya, Balázs, MTA KOKI, Lendület Systems Neuroscience Research Group, 2015

Harcos, Gergely, MTA RAMKI, Lendület Automorphic Research Group, 2017

Hettyey, Attila, MTA ATK, Lendület Evolutionary Ecology Research Group, 2012

Homolya, László, MTA TTK, Lendület Molecular Cell Biology Research Group, 2012

Horváth, Péter, MTA SZBK, Lendület BIOMAG Research Group, 2018

Horváth, Róbert, MTA EK, Lendület Nanobiosensorics Research Group, 2012

Jakus, Zoltán, MTA-SE, Lendület Lymphatic Physiology Research Group, 2014

Józsi, Mihály, MTA-ELTE, Lendület Complement Research Group, 2012

Juhász, Gábor, MTA SZBK, Lendület Drosophila Autophagy Research Group, 2014

Kállay, Mihály, MTA-BME, Lendület Quantum Chemistry Research Group, 2013

Katona, István, MTA KOKI, Lendület Molecular Neurobiology Research Group, 2013

Katz, Sándor, MTA-ELTE, Lendület Lattice Gauge Theory Research Group, 2012

Kele, Péter, MTA TTK, Lendület Chemical Biology Research Group, 2013

Kern, Zoltán, MTA CSFK, Lendület 2ka Palæoclimate Research Group, 2012

Kézsmárki, István, MTA-BME, Lendület Magneto-optical Spectroscopy Research Group, 2014

Király, Ildikó, MTA-ELTE, Lendület Social Cognition Research Group, 2017

Kiss, Farkas Gábor, MTA-ELTE, Lendület Humanism in East Central Europe Research Group, 2014

Kiss, László, MTA CSFK, Lendület Exoplanets and Stellar Structure Research Group, 2009

Kiss, Viktória, MTA BTK, Lendület Mobility Research Group, 2015

Kóspál, Ágnes, MTA CSFK, Lendület Disk Research Group, 2014

Kovács, Tamás György, MTA Atomki, Lendület Lattice QCD Research Group, 2011

Legeza, Örs, MTA Wigner FK, Lendület Strongly Correlated Systems Research Group, 2012

Lengyel, Balázs, MTA KRTK, Lendület Agglomeration and Social Networks Research Group, 2017

Lipinszki, Zoltán, MTA SZBK, Lendület Eukaryotic Cell Cycle Regulation Research Group, 2017

London, Gábor, MTA TTK, Lendület Functional Organic Materials Research Group, 2018

Lugaro, Maria, MTA CSFK, Lendület AGB Nuclei and Dust Research Group, 2014

Lukács, Ágnes, MTA-BME, Lendület Language Acquisition Research Group, 2018

Makara, Judit, MTA KOKI, Lendület Neuronal Signaling Research Group, 2011

Markó, Alexandra, MTA-ELTE, Lendület Lingual Coarticulation Research Group, 2016

Mátés, Lajos, MTA SZBK, Lendület Cancer Genome Research Group, 2015

Mócsai, Attila, MTA-SE, Lendület Inflammation Physiology Research Group, 2013

Mosonyi, Milán, MTA-BME, Lendület Quantum Information Theory Research Group, 2018

Muraközy, Balázs, MTA KRTK, Lendület Firms, Strategy and Performance Research Group, 2013

Nagy, László, MTA SZBK, Lendület Fungal Evolutionary Genomics Research Group, 2014

Nemes-Incze, Péter, MTA EK, Lendület Topology in Nanomaterials Research Group, 2017

Novák, Zoltán, MTA-ELTE, Lendület Catalysis and Organic Synthesis Research Group, 2012

Orbán, Gergő, MTA Wigner FK, Lendület Computational Systems Neuroscience Research Group, 2012

Ősi, Attila, MTA-ELTE, Lendület Dinosaur Research Group, 2011

Pál, András, MTA CSFK, Lendület Fly's Eye Research Group, 2012

Pál, Csaba, MTA SZBK, Lendület Synthetic and Systems Biology Research Group, 2012; Microbial Experimental Evolution Research Group, 2017

Pálffy, Géza, MTA BTK, Lendület Holy Crown of Hungary Research Group, 2012

Pálvölgyi, Dömötör, MTA-ELTE, Lendület Combinatorial Geometry Research Group, 2017

Papp, Balázs, MTA SZBK, Lendület Computational Systems Biology Research Group, 2009

Pásztor, Gabriella, MTA-ELTE, Lendület CMS Particle and Nuclear Physics Research Group, 2015

Reményi, Attila, MTA TTK, Lendület Protein Interaction Research Group, 2013

Simon, Ferenc, MTA-BME, Lendület Spintronics Research Group, 2015

Stipsicz, András, MTA RAMKI, Lendület Low Dimensional Topology Research Group, 2010

Surányi, Balázs, MTA NYTI, Lendület Quantifier Scope Research Group, 2011

Szabadics, János, MTA KOKI, Lendület Cellular Neuropharmacology Research Group, 2009

Szakács, Gergely, MTA TTK, Lendület Membrane Biology Research Group, 2010

Szegedy, Balázs, MTA RAMKI, Lendület Limits of Structures Research Group, 2013

Székvölgyi, Lóránt, MTA-DE, Lendület Genome Architecture and Recombination Research Group, 2015

Szilágyi, Róbert, MTA-ELTE, Lendület Chemical Structure and Function Research Group, 2015

Szöllősi, Gergely János, MTA-ELTE, Lendület Evolutionary Genomics Research Group, 2016

Szüts, Dávid, MTA TTK, Lendület Genome Stability Research Group, 2011

Takács, Gábor, MTA-BME, Lendület Statistical Field Theory Research Group, 2012

Takács, Károly, MTA TK, Lendület RECENS Research Group, 2012

Tapolcai, János, MTA-BME, Lendület Future Internet Research Group, 2012

Tarczay, György, MTA-ELTE, Lendület Laboratory Astrochemistry Research Group, 2018

Tardos, Gábor, MTA RAMKI, Lendület Cryptography Research Group, 2009

Timinszky, Gyula, MTA SZBK, Lendület DNA Damage and Nuclear Dynamics Research Group, 2017

Tóth, Szilvia Zita, MTA SZBK, Lendület Molecular Photobioenergetics Research Group, 2014

Tóth, Zsombor, MTA BTK, Lendület Long Reformation in Eastern Europe (1500–1800) Research Group, 2018

Török, Péter, MTA-DE, Lendület Functional and Restoration Ecology Research Group, 2017

Tusnády, Gábor, MTA TTK, Lendületet Membrane Protein Bioinformatics Research Group, 2012

Vankó, György, MTA Wigner FK, Lendület Femtosecond Spectroscopy Research Group, 2013

Varga, Dezső, MTA Wigner FK, Lendület Innovative Particle Detector Development Research Group, 2013

Varju, Márton, MTA TK, Lendület HPOPs Research Group, 2013

Varró, Dániel, MTA-BME, Lendület Cyber-physical Systems Research Group, 2015

Virág, Bálint, MTA RAMKI, Lendület Random Spectra Research Group, 2016

Weisz, Boglárka, MTA BTK, Lendület Medieval Hungarian Economic History Research Group, 2015

Werner, Norbert, MTA-ELTE, Lendület Hot Universe Research Group, 2016

Zaránd, Gergely, MTA-BME, Lendület Exotic Quantum Phases Research Group, 2011

Signatories who also won ERC grants: Abért, Miklós (2014 Consolidator grant); Csonka, Szabolcs (2010 Starting grant); Dénes, Ádám (2016 Consolidator grant); Hangya, Balázs (2016 Starting grant); Kállay, Mihály (2007 Starting grant); Katona, István (2009 Starting grant); Katz, Sándor (2007 Starting grant); Kóspál, Ágnes (2016 Starting grant); Lugaro, Maria (2016 Consolidator grant); Makara, Judit (2017 Consolidator grant); Mócsai, Attila (2007 Starting grant); Nagy, László (2017 Starting grant); Pál, Csaba (2007 Starting grant, 2014 Consolidator grant, 2019 Proof of Concept grant); Simon, Ferenc (2010 Starting grant); Stipsicz, András (2011 Advanced grant); Szabadics, János (2017 Consolidator grant); Szakács, Gergely (2010 Starting grant); Szegedy, Balázs (2013 Consolidator grant); Szöllősi, Gergely (2016 Starting grant); Takács, Károly (2014 Consolidator grant); Vankó, György (2010 Starting grant).