The text of the 1st Declaration, 24 Jan 2019
The text of the 2nd Declaration, 7 Feb 2019
For background information, see here in the English menu.
The Hungarian Academy Staff Forum – HASF (Akadémiai Dolgozók Fóruma – ADF) brought resolutions on three issues:
- On the issue of the independence and autonomy of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA) and research institutes, research centres, and budgetary entities belonging to the MTA from government, in accord with the terms of Act XL of 1994 on the Academy of Sciences, and in broader terms, on the issue of the separation of the sciences from political power;
- The issue of the core funding (block grant funding) of the research institutes, the research centres and the Academy, as well as the system of financing research (specifically the “Tématerületi Kiválósági Program” [Thematic-field Excellence Programme] announced by the Ministry of Innovation and Technology;
- The issue of ensuring the working conditions and employment rights of the researchers and administrative workers working in the institutional network of the research institutes, research centres, and budgetary entities of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and on preserving the unity of MTA in the face of the organizational restructuring forced upon it through financial means.
Issue 1 should not be confused with the issue of the freedom of the researcher, which concerns whether researchers can continue their work in line with their own scientific conscience and independently of political influence when the core funding required for the research, as well as financial and infrastructural conditions are given. The autonomy and independence of science from political power is a precondition of the freedom of the researcher. Because it is first the core funding, the general system of financial and infrastructural conditions that determine whether researchers can work at all, and which researchers in which fields of science are ensured block grant funding and the financial and infrastructural conditions that are required to do that work. If the scientific community does not decide such questions according to its best knowledge, qualification and rating system, the situation arising could easily mean that the research subjects, questions and facts do not even arise, on the basis of which in the light of broader social needs it could be decided what fields may require exceptional support. If we do not ensure the core (block grant) funding for the measurement of temperatures and the basic research related to the average temperature of the earth, and interpretation of the “temperature” of the earth, we cannot decide about whether research into climate change is justified or not. Therefore the issue of the separation of science and political power is just as fundamental, as the separation of the church and political power. Since Giordano Bruno, Galileo, and the birth of the institutional systems of the modern sciences this independence has been a fundamental principle for international science. This fundamental principle rests, among others, on the historical experience that there isn’t, and has not been until now any guarantee that a political regime can bring a better decision in questions of basic research than the scientific community. Conversely, when political decisions were made on these questions independently of the positions of scientists, the consequences were catastrophic.
Issue 2 puts forward the Forum’s position on the concrete current attempt to introduce a new system for the financing of science. This system principally affects the whole research network of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, that is, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences as it exists on the basis of Act XL of 1994. At the same time, however, it also affects the whole system of research financing in Hungary, and the role of the Academy within it. This financing regime first drew the whole annual budget of the MTA research network into the jurisdiction of the Ministry, and now intends to distribute it with the involvement of the government-founded institutional circle outside the purview of the Academy, according to its own supported “subject-field” quotas, preferences, and as yet unknown, but solely self-operated rating system. Rather than ensuring the funding of the relevant institutional circle, by this means it is funding the institutions of its own founding from the budget framework allocated to the MTA by the Academy Act, with its own chapter in the central budget, and approved by Parliament.
The MTA President protested against
the withdrawal of these funds from the MTA leadership and the Academic bodies
responsible for the tasks of the MTA being carried out, and the President did
not sign the pertaining proposed legislation put before parliament. The reallocation of fiscal resources took
place last year, without indication that the signature was missing, and
irrespective of the MTA position. Thereby MTA was put in a position where the
budgetary funding of required tasks was withdrawn from those who were
responsible for completing them. In 2019, MTA no longer received the costs of
maintaining its research network, and even where
the wages of MTA employees are concerned, the Ministry only promised to cover them
until the decisions on the bids for its “Thematic-Field Excellence Programme” announced
within the framework of the new financing system it wishes to introduce. This
stands in conflict with the Academy Act currently in effect, and the
Fundamental Law of Hungary.
Issue 3 addresses the situation of the research and administrative staff working in the Hungarian Academy of Sciences network of research institutes, research centres, and the institutional network of its budgetary entities, and specifically their contractual positions as civil servants, the conditions required for them to carry out their tasks, the interests of the workers, and the organizational framework of their work. These workers currently fall within the scope of Act XXXIII of 1992 on the legal position of public servants. Their employer is the Director-General, appointed by the MTA leadership, yet the Ministry dispenses with the budget allocation for their wages currently. So if the Ministry does not transfer the funds to the research centres and budgetary entities of the Academy, employees can only sue their employer, MTA, and their research centre, which raises issues of legality going beyond the Public Servants Act, and creates existential uncertainty. The intended system of financing with an annual decision about wage allocations, for a maximum of a three-year period contradicts a significant proportion of the current (indefinite-term or tenure-type) employment contracts. If introduced, it will affect the currently valid employment contracts to the detriment of the employees. At the same time it divests the employers of the conditions for them to practice their rights as employers, that is, it eliminates all possibility of self-determination for MTA in respect of how it signed and respects its research and administrative staff contracts.
In the following we present the grounds
on which we have reached our positions on these issues:
1. The distribution of the wages of civil servants through funding bids violates the law (Act XXXIII of 1992 on the legal position of public servants),
2. the distribution of the maintenance costs of the academic institutes in the manner planned by the Ministry. This is the case because the Budget Act stipulates an exclusive allocation of these funds, which the Ministry is required to disburse according to the terms of the Academy Act.
3. Provision of infrastructure and
core (block grant) funding is independent of thematic research funding in every
democratic state of the world. As property of MTA, the MTA research
infrastructure is public property financed from public funds. Maintenance of
these is to be ensured through the Academy Act and the Budget funding approved
4. The aim of thematic funding and subject
field financing everywhere is to ensure the costs, in a given research area,
arising beyond the core costs, and to
ensure the involvement of those experts in the research who are not
participating ex officio, or as employees paid from public funds, or those who undertake
the work beyond the duties required in their position. This is the same as in
the case of research conducted at the state maintained institutions financed by
the American National Science Foundation, Max Planck Gesellshaft, or the
Swedish Royal Academy.
5. Similarly, it is international
scientific practice that the leading scientific institutions, along with many
other institutions serving scientific excellence, the vanguard of scientific
research like the MTA (as in the case of even the Fraunhoffer Gesellschaft cited
by the Ministry, which supports applied, rather than core research) and
adjudicate the distribution of resources intended for research subjects and
themes according to their own criteria, procedures, and through their own
supervisory bodies, ensuring the balanced
development of each area of science.
6. A comparison of the stipulated conditions
for funding, the themes of the calls, and the funds allocated to them with current
public maintenance and wage costs lands many institutes in a position where
even if the institutes of the Academy win the whole allocation available for
their area, the funds would still only cover a fragment of the maintenance and
wage costs, threatening their existence and the core research they conduct.
Holding on to researchers becomes impossible, and dependent on the funding
decisions of the Ministry.
7. Our position is that the only way
to achieve government priorities in scientific policy is to ensure resources
for thematic research over and above the
core funding. Determination of the quotas and proportions of the funds
distributed as core funding has always been the competency solely of MTA, even
in the darkest of times, even when, in certain periods, party political
considerations had a say along what lines the distribution was carried out.
8. Even if the MTA would enter a
single, unified bid for the announced tender, this would change nothing with
regards to decisions being based on quotas and neglecting professional
considerations, the external pressure on academic institutions to restructure
their internal organizations, and the practice of eliminating permanent
positions depending on the theme of their research.
9. For the moment it is against the
law to withhold the wages of civil servants while they perform their duties based
on valid employment contracts, and so is making their payment dependent on
considerations of funding distributions. Making the whole budget of scientific institutions dependent on allocations of
thematic funding bids judged intermittently by the Ministry is an unequivocal
and direct exertion of control on their subsistence, which results in the
liquidation of the professional independence of scientific research and
10. It creates such insecurity that
once it is established it would only increase outward migration and the number
of career leavers even if the allocated funds would be increased. Whole
research areas can fall victim to the politically directed decisions of the
Ministry, in the making of which they do not even attempt to get a grasp of the
professional issues, and do not consult with researchers of the concerned field.
11. The elimination of current
research positions at MTA institutions is not possible without institutional
restructuring on professional grounds, and employers in leading positions at MTA
cannot undertake such an action based on funding quotas decided by the Ministry
because this would lead to a complete lack of independence at the research
institutes and in research.
12. The Ministry plans to
redistribute the funds that it oversees after they were withdrawn from the MTA,
by making the funds available in tenders for bids to other government
institutions, the institutions of higher education that are already core
financed, as well as any government foundation that meets the application
criteria, though lacking a scientific tradition such as that of the MTA. It is
thereby withdrawing the funds required by law for the maintenance of MTA and distributing it elsewhere.
13. A system of ranking applications
in which the criteria of the decisions, the
mode of evaluation of the applications is unknown, also raises legal
14. For this reason the system for
financing the sciences that would be realized by the “Thematic-Field Excellence
Programme” must be rejected on the
grounds of principle, because once the selection cloaked in application
criteria begins, this will break the funding down to institutions and
individuals, and from then on can never be stopped. Sooner or later it will
impact every institution and all concerned.
15. The attempt to introduce this
procedure for the financing of the sciences is a precedent, its significance reaches
far beyond Hungary, and ought to be brought to the attention of the
international scientific world and Hungarian public opinion as if it were the
Max Planck Gesellschaft, the French or Polish Academy of Sciences where we could
see the government attempt to dominate
scientific policy, and determine the fields of research and their theme through
the withdrawal and redistribution of their operational budget. We are speaking
about the introduction of a system that makes the financing of the institutions
of science, researchers, and research subjects dependent as a whole on case-by-case decisions of the government. This is
a further step along the road to the removal of the separation and independence
of the branches of power that will threaten, if it becomes a practice, the
international fundamental principles of modern science.
16. The Extraordinary MTA General
Assembly held on 6 December 2018 brought a resolution with regard to the
Ministry’s efforts. This resolution is in effect. Therefore a request
ought to be addressed to every leader of the Academy, every member of the
Academy, member of the Presidium, and employee, to respect the spirit of the
resolution by rejecting the chance to participate in this application for
17. Acceptance of this funding
regime and participating in it would create a precedent, where the leadership
of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and leaders of individual research
institutes as employers, are not acting in line with the resolutions of the
18. It would divide the members of
the Presidium, and instead of competing scientific problems and solutions, researchers
would be pitted against each other on the basis of government thematic preferences.
19. Only standing by the obligations
accepted in the resolutions brought by the Extraordinary MTA General Assembly
on 18 December 2018 can bolster a position that offers a chance for a unified
stance and unified action, while decreasing the possibility of division being
sown among scientists in Hungary.
20. Only a few years ago the
Hungarian Academy of Sciences was the most popular public institution in
Hungary, which means that it enjoyed support across political lines.
Maintaining and preserving this still prevalent assessment is a professional
obligation of every scientific researcher of the Academy irrespective of their
21. Therefore we submit that for
reasons both of principle and legality, MTA
and its academic institutes must not enter bids in the announced “Thematic-Field
Excellence Programme”, with its conditions and applicant circle determined by
This sets a situation that clarifies that it is the Ministry’s legal responsibility to make provisions for the core funding of MTA from the resources it has drawn to itself, and that a structural and organizational reform of the scientific activity relying on this core funding is only possible in the way set out by the Resolution of the Extraordinary MTA General Assembly on 6 December 2018, grounded in professional considerations preserving the independence of scientific research.
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