The Academy does not wish to use excellent researchers’ grants to pay electricity bills

The statement of the Ministry for Innovation and Technology on 15 January 2019 incorrectly claimed that the Hungarian Academy of Sciences has all the legal means to finance its work. The Academy’s surplus funds from the 2018 budget have already been earmarked for previous commitments.

A statement from the ITM claims that “The Ministry has already provided more than 8.6 billion HUF to cover the Academy’s expenses in 2019 in addition to the sources provided for wages.” However, this sum of money was allocated only for the funding the MTA’s Excellence Programme.

The sources mentioned in this ITM statement, or at least some of them, are reserved by the Academy for other purposes, such as the financing of the Momentum (Lendület) programme, that aims to win back and retain excellent Hungarian researchers from abroad. These sums can only be transferred temporarily to cover material expenses in the form of repayable assistance if the ITM legally binds itself to recover all these expenses, irrespective of the result of the current audit of the research network. The Academy has been requesting such legal statements from the ITM since September 2018, though these efforts have been in vain up to this point.

Conditional public procurement procedures do not solve the problem of research centres either, as such procedures cannot apply to material expenses, such as the running costs of the general operation, and their use is severely limited in research tenders.

The annual overhead cost of the entire research network of the Academy amounts to less than one per cent of the 1400 billion HUF of the 2019 ITM budget. According to applicable legislation, this sum of money must be made available to the MTA. This was requested from the Minister by the leaders, the Presidium, the General Assembly of the MTA, and even by the seven members delegated by the Minister himself to the joint committee, which is determining the methodology of the research network’s audit. We reject the claim made in the statement above in which the Academy is accused of being incompetent and having malicious intent, and which included baseless allegations. The debates about the present legal and financial situation do not justify the menacing tone of the ITM’s statement.

The present structure of the research network of the Academy was set up in 2012, during the presidency of József Pálinkás, in order to enhance efficiency. This restructuring was quite major, which is indicated by the following figures: previously there were two research centres and 38 independent research institutes; while now there are ten research centres and only five independent research institutes. Only six years, approximately, have passed since this rationalisation, contrary to the alleged eighty years.

As before, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences supports the Government’s efforts to enhance Hungary’s RDI performance. However, this aim can only be reached if the research network of the Academy is preserved. The audit of the academic research network already started with an extremely tight schedule. The audit is led by committees made up of internationally-recognised experts, according to international standards.