Hungarian government moves to hijack the scientific world

The Fidesz-government expects “wise neutrality” from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA) in exchange for economic independence.

Ivett Körösi
Ivett Körösi Nepszava, Hungary
Source: Nepszava
Hungarian government moves to hijack the scientific
world

 - NewsMavens
Hingarian Academy of Sciences, Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

As a pioneer of illiberalism, the populist government of Hungary not only wants to control politics, economics and media but now it also wants to have a say in science now, too. 

The government, led by Viktor Orban, is basically blackmailing the Hungarian Academy of Sciences: if it wants to keep its right to control the dispersal of its 28 billion HUF budget, the Academy must play by the government’s rules.

Among other things, the government wants the Academy to stop taking an interest in current political issues and “stay wisely neutral”. It also wants to see its own delegates among the leadership of MTA.

It is worth taking the government's threats seriously: a few days ago the news broke that gender studies courses could be banned in universities. With that move, Fidesz showed that it did not shy away from using its excessive power in any matters that are ideologically important to the conservative political elite.

Details from the story:

  • The government previously threatened MTA with transferring disposal of the 28 billion-HUF-support to the supervision of the Ministry of Innovation and Technology. This would represent a serious loss of economic independence for MTA.
  • According to Andras Lukacs, from the Professors’ Network, an autonomous body representing professors working in higher education, if the government placed its delegates among the leadership of  the MTA, a scenario could unfold similar to what happened with the Hungarian Accreditation Committee: after the 2010 elections the government’s delegates appeared in its leadership and gradually took control of it and with a majority now they can easily implement anything they want.
  • Lukacs told Nepszava that “it’s hard to imagine” that the government “would act fairly” under the new model.  
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