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The government’s proposals for the transformation of the network of research institutions including its separation from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA) poses a threat to academic and scientific freedom, MTA President László Lovász said. The government has so far been unable to explain why it would be better for research institutions not to operate under the auspices of MTA, Lovász told an international press conference. The research network has been operating well and at a high standard under MTA. Based on its achievements and available resources, it has been among the best in Europe, he said.

The low level of innovation cited by the government as a problem will not improve simply by withdrawing institutions involved in basic research from the oversight of the public body, he said. At the same time, separating the research institutions from MTA will generate serious legal problems, he added.

On June 4 the government submitted a proposal to amend laws on operating and financing the institutional network for research, development and innovation. In line with the proposal, MTA research institutions would be transferred to the Eötvös Loránd Research Network whose board includes six MTA delegates and six government delegates. Additionally, an eleven-member National Science Policy Council would be set up to prepare opinions and proposals about the government’s research, development and innovation activities, and report directly to the prime minister.

Lovász said it was reason for serious concern that the proposal fails to secure basic financing for research institutes and guarantee the representation of the researchers’ network in the Eötvös Loránd Research Network. Additionally, the proposal violates MTA’s ownership rights, he said. Further, the ministry of innovation and technology has used dubious negotiating methods including threats at consultations between the ministry and MTA in the past year, Lovász added.