Kertesz, Colleague Raise Concerns About Hungarian Research Grant Agency’s Loss of Autonomy

A new Hungarian law grants control over research grant awards for basic science to a large government office from January 1, 2015, raising concerns about the independence of the process, according to Professor Janos Kertesz of CEU’s Center for Network Science. Kertesz and Andras Varadi of the Institute of Enzymology at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences wrote about their concerns in a letter published December 18 in Nature magazine, which has written about the possible restrictions on the autonomy of the agency, known as OTKA. OTKA, which has been praised by the European Science Foundation as a professionally managed council of the highest international standards, will be subsumed into the National Research, Development and Innovation Office.

Hungarian news portals and published on the topic December 19, citing Kertesz and Varadi’s letter. The text of the letter follows:

Hungary: Research agency will lose autonomy

On 1 January 2015 a large new government office will take over Hungary’s research-grant agency for basic science, OTKA. This will assume all budget management for research, development and innovation – destroying what the European Science Foundation has described as the agency’s “high degree of political autonomy”.

A report by the foundation in November hailed OTKA as “the crown jewel of Hungary’s R&D system; it is a professionally managed research council, whose procedures conform to the highest international standards. For several years, it has been in a constant process of improving its approaches and instruments, and it is obvious that OTKA will continue to do so“. This view accords with that of most Hungarian scientists.

You note that “in Hungary, where the pluralism is under threat, the writing is on the wall” (Nature 515, 7–8; 2014). No scientist in Hungary expected that this prophecy would come true so soon. András Váradi Institute of Enzymology, RCNS, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary. János Kertész, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary.

Other item of Hungarian coverage:

Nepszava, 20.12.2014. (p.2, A kormany kezeben a kutatasok is)