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President of Hungarian Academy of Sciences concedes that reforms are needed

The President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (HAS), Professor E. Szilvester Vizi, has responded to criticisms of the structure of HAS, and said that the way ahead for HAS is to transfer long-accumulated knowledge quickly and efficiently into the Hungarian economy for the...

The President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (HAS), Professor E. Szilvester Vizi, has responded to criticisms of the structure of HAS, and said that the way ahead for HAS is to transfer long-accumulated knowledge quickly and efficiently into the Hungarian economy for the benefit of all. Professor Vizi said that HAS' 38 research institutes and more than 120 university research teams should give more money to efficient research units, but much less to those out of touch with international cutting-edge research. The HAS President emphasised that in spite of genuine or perceived shortcomings, research conducted by HAS has seen many successes, including: the development of superior strains of wheat and corn; computer-based control systems for atomic power stations; medical and biochemical research contributing to new pharmaceutical lines of research; light-driven optical motors; and mathematical models used in corporate investments. All of these have yielded millions of euros in returns, as well as recognition for the HAS research community, as seen in the high number of research papers appearing in international journals. However, reform is necessary, said Professor Vizi, and this reform should not be defensive, but offensive. Reform should enable research to be the driving force behind Hungary catching-up with other European nations, he said. 'Hungarian research and development must adapt to global challenges, or Hungary will be further relegated down the intellectual capital world rankings,' he said. To achieve this, HAS must reconcile the different interests of universities and research institutes on the one hand, and between basic and applied research on the other. Recent reforms and priorities must intensify, he added. In particular, quality of research must not just be maintained, but improved; financing must be proportionate to tasks and performance; more researchers should contribute to post-doctoral university programmes; basic research should be informed primarily by applicability and usefulness; an international scientific council should be invited to guide the work of each HAS research institute; and the administrative secretariat of HAS should be streamlined. Professor Vizi did not dwell upon the more radical criticisms of HAS, namely that HAS has too much autonomy in managing government-financed research, and that the life-long privileges of members should be abolished.

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