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The Illiberal State against Science and Culture

Author: Brittin Alfred

 

Participants

  1. Viktor Olivér Lorincz, Hungarian Academy Staff Forum/Centre for Social Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Science (HAS) Centre of Excellence, Institute for Legal Studies
  2. László Péter, The Wigner Center
  3. Márton Zászkaliczky, Lecturer at the Károli University of the Reformed Church in Hungary, Board Member of Hungarian Academy Staff Forum.
  4. Judit Gárdos, Hungarian Academy Staff Forum /Centre for Social Sciences, Institute for Sociology, Board Member of Hungarian Academy Staff Forum.

 

Session Summary

The Hungarian government has initiated a methodical re-organization of public research institutions and universities, thereby removing the autonomy of Hungary’s Academy of Sciences and its research centers. Under the new system, politically appointed delegates occupy a majority of positions within institutional leadership, and government funding for research is now awarded through a tender system that is under total ministerial control. Research priorities are dictated by the “national interest,” which includes research that upholds national values and “economic innovation.” This creates an atmosphere in which research institutions must ensure their proposed projects are in-line with government priorities in order to receive even basic operational funding. While “freedom of science” is mentioned within the fundamental law of Hungary, the options for pursuing legal action against the government’s unilateral actions in both domestic and international courts are limited.

 

Themes

  1. Leadership positions within the research supervisory body are appointed by the government, and research centers no longer have meaningful input into the appointment process – effectively handing over control of research institutes to the Hungarian government. The same process is happening within the country’s universities.
  2. Increasing government control over awarding of research funding and setting of research agendas creates an atmosphere in which research institutes can no longer pursue research that the government may potentially consider as against national values and priorities.
  3. The budget reallocation has effectively destroyed the career pathways that previously existed for academics, scientists, and researchers within Hungary. Researchers have increased job insecurity and declining wages. As a result, Hungary is experiencing a ‘brain drain’ as research talent migrates out of the country.
  4. State collusion with government-friendly media is influencing national narratives around the “national need” for certain types of research (for example, research into the origins of the “Hungarian people”) and narratives that stigmatize other types of research that run counter to the government’s social ideology (for example, the elimination of gender studies).

 

Takeaways

  1. Academic freedom and the freedom of scientific inquiry is further narrowing in Hungary’s increasingly illiberal democracy.
  2. The Hungarian state has exerted considerable political control over the state’s research bodies and uses its control over funding allocation as a tool for setting research agendas in line with national ideology of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government.
  3. In the absence of promising avenues for legal recourse, the research community within Hungary is reaching out to the press about these issues, serving as a watchdog over the government, forming inter-disciplinarian solidarity, and strengthening regional and international research networks.

 

Key Words

  1. Hungarian Academy of Science
  2. Research budget allocation
  3. Government processes for research grants
  4. Political appointments
  5. Pierre Bourdieu’s Theory of Fields
  6. National interest
  7. Freedom of science