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Monday, February 8. 2016
Unlike Professor Éva Balogh, who has been monitoring, analyzing and reporting on Orban’s depredations for nearly 20 years now, I only got my first clue in 2011, with the Philosopher Affair.
But what I find remarkable is how just about every element of what was eventually going to become patently obvious to me — and to everyone else who pays attention — was already there, in its full, flagrant, foul odors and colors, in that formative and shocking affair, scarcely believable at the time, or even now.
For me, as an academic, it has since become a life-long wake-up call — and (academic) call-to-arms.
The escalating and unending revelations since then are hardly surprises any more, though they still take one’s breath away.
External Member, Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Thursday, May 24. 2012
The Hungarian government has ended (without apology) its FUD campaign against philosophers that had been critical of the government (the "Heller Gang"). Investigation over, no evidence of wrong-doing, all charges dropped, case closed. Yet the FUD campaign succeeded in doing its intended damage. That's what FUD is for...
And the Hungarian Academy of Sciences has suitably disgraced itself, for betraying its historic mandate and refusing to stand up for its members -- as announced by it President, Joseph Palinkas (former minister in the present Hungarian government).
Wednesday, February 23. 2011
Bohannon, John (2011) Hungarian Academicians Blast Government Over Inquiry Into Research Funds. ScienceInsider February 4, 2011
"An ugly political situation in Hungary has spilled over into academia, prompting an investigation of supposed financial misdeeds on one side and claims of harassment on the other. Humanities scholars are under investigation by the government for alleged misuse of research funds. But their supporters say they are the target of a government crackdown on critics..."First, heartfelt thanks to John Bohannon at ScienceInsider for being the first English-language journalist to give these sad and worrisome developments in Hungary the international attention they so urgently needed.
Let me try to describe the situation in a nutshell in 14 points, and then encourage all viewpoints to express themselves at the ScienceInsider site, openly -- and then let the world scientific/scholarly community draw its own conclusions.
1. Hungary is a small country with a difficult historical past and a language comprehensible only to its native populace and a very few courageous foreigners.
2. In this closed system an ever-repeating cycle has evolved in which there is extreme polarization ("us vs them") and blame for most problems is laid on the "enemy," with most efforts directed toward punishing the enemy instead of solving the problem.
3. The polarization divides roughly along right-wing and "left-liberal" lines, but these are not quite the same as they are in western europe and north america -- as will become evident if this discussion manages to bring the voices -- which are currently expressing themselves only in Hungarian -- out into the open.
4. I will point out only that the current government is right-wing, and has shown some inclination lately to control the press more than any other western democracy. I will also point out that the former government was left-wing, and highly corrupt. The government before that one was likewise corrupt, and that government happened to be the very same government as the current government. And before that was the communist government, for about four decades, likewise corrupt. And before that was the wartime Fascist government, likewise corrupt…
5. So mutual accusations of corruption are completely uninformative and unhelpful.
6. The present "philosopher affair" concerns this same recurrent pattern: The Hungarian research grant system is extremely inefficient (as it is in many countries, but probably even moreso in Hungary), as well as very low on funds (as it is in many countries, but probably moreso in Hungary) because of the global financial crisis. The philosopher affair concerns alleged irregularities connected with research funding.
7. All researchers, everywhere, complain about the funding system: It is unfair. It gives too much money to unworthy projects; it is biassed; some research and researchers are favoured over others. Let's call these complaints that rival researchers (and rival research fields) make about one another all the time, everywhere, the "generic" complaints.
8. Researchers (and their institutions, and also their funders and funding systems) are also notorious for being sloppy and inefficient (they miss deadlines, they over- or under-spend budgets, they make accounting and reporting errors, etc.). This too is familiar. But researchers are also mostly honest, everywhere, and they try to remedy their sloppiness once it is pointed out -- or if the system becomes sufficiently efficient to make sure slip-ups are prevented from happening in the first place. Let's call these complaints about the implementation and efficiency of compliance with the funding system "systemic" complaints.
9. In addition, there occasionally occurs a genuine instance of major and intentional misuse of research funds on the part of researchers. If researchers do something that is against the rules of the research funding, their funds are revoked and they may have to pay a penalty. Let us call accusations of having done something like this accusations of "rule-breaking."
10. If the intentional researcher malfeasance is not only rule-breaking, but against the law, then the researchers are taken to court. But such things are very rare, and serious, so charges of having done illegal things are not made lightly. Let us call accusations of having done something like this accusations of "criminality."
11. Now it can be stated what is at issue in the philosopher affair in Hungary: A small number of philosophers has been singled out and accused of a bundle of things, but it is not in the least clear whether the things in the bundle are in the first two categories (generic and systemic complaints) or the second two categories (rule-breaking or criminal charges). The evidence has not been made known. The accusations are blurred and keep mutating. What is aired is mostly just generic and systemic complaints familiar to every funded researcher in the world -- and those do not distinguish the accused philosophers in any way from any other funded researcher anywhere on the planet -- and yet the blurred bundle keeps being treated as rule-breaking or criminal charges, and indeed police have been called in to investigate (with no result, other than researcher harassment by police investigations). They have also been looked into by a governmental research funding overseer (Gyula Budai).
12. The researchers involved are reputable researchers of long standing, some of them world famous. It is not stated why they were singled out for these accusations. The accusations and their targets are not the result of a global, systematic, random audit to detect malfeasance, within or between fields: They are simply a heterogeneous and constantly changing bundle of ad hoc accusations, levelled against these philosophers out of the blue, and then turned into a sustained press campaign of presumptive criminality and vilification by the Government-associated right wing press.
13. Since all the accused are of the "left-liberal" persuasion, and the two that are widely known internationally are also prominent critics of the current government (but also of past governments, including left-wing ones), the most likely hypothesis is that the accusations are yet again the result of Hungary's unfortunate tendency to blame problems (in this case the inefficiency of the funding system? the corruption of the prior government?) on the "enemy," and to punish the enemy for them -- instead of solving the problem (by reforming the funding system, if that is the problem).
14. All indications -- and of course this is the most worrisome aspect of it all -- are that the campaign of accusation, police-intervention, and press vilification are taking place with the encouragement and involvement of the government, bent, yet again, on punishing its predecessors, critics and other "enemies" rather than on using their turn in office to solve the ongoing problems of the country -- and on setting an example of governing uncorruptly.
Discussion -- but temperate discussion only -- is now invited at the ScienceInsider site from all sides.
American Scientist Open Access Forum
28 January 2011
To: Professor József Pálinkás, President, Hungarian Academy of Sciences
From: Undersigned External and Honorary Members, Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Dear Professor Pálinkás,
It is impossible for scholars and scientists living in the rest of the world to be unaware of the very worrisome developments taking place in Hungary today. There is dismay about the curbs on press freedoms, but the latest developments have struck home in the Academy.
Every funded scholar and scientist in the world knows that research grants are provided to support the conduct of research and the communication of its results through conferences, student support and publications.
We also know that even in the wealthiest nations, research is lamentably underfunded, especially in today's difficult financial times.
We all know, too, that every funded researcher in the world is vulnerable to superficial and unsupported charges -- by laymen who do not understand or perhaps do not even believe in scholarly and scientific research -- to the effect that public money is being wasted on research that is not worth conducting and not worth disseminating.
This is why research funding is accorded on the basis of peer review, by qualified scholars and scientists, and not on the basis of opinion polls, let alone allegations by every skeptic, cynic, or worse.
Most important of all, whenever a baseless attack on publicly funded research happens to appear in the media -- assuming that the attack is not so vicious or personal as to be libelous or defamatory -- it is ignored and tolerated as one of the inevitable, if not always admirable, manifestations of freedom of the press and freedom of opinion.
In particular, the worldwide scientific and scholarly community knows well that the occasional public venting, especially in hard economic times, of an individual's animus against research spending in general, or against a particular line of research that the critic happens to dislike, is to be expected in a Gaussian distribution of opinion, freely expressible in public.
If necessary (though it is rarely necessary), supporters of research, better informed about its conduct and purpose, including the research community itself, are free to rally in the defense of research and researchers when they fall under the shadow of disinformation.
But in a nation where it is the freedom of the press and freedom of opinion that are themselves falling under a shadow, and where familiar generic criticisms, so general (and superficial, and ludicrous) that they could literally have been made about every single funded researcher on the planet today -- unmerited funding, misspent on conducting and communicating unworthy research -- are coupled with far more sinister and borderline-libelous allegations -- pocketing the research money instead of using it for its intended purpose -- the first thing the international scholarly community would expect by way of a response is a rallying of the national scholarly community in defense of the research and researchers thus attacked.
Instead, what we hear is that in Hungary legal action is being contemplated against the researchers that are under attack.
We write to ask that the Hungarian Academy of Sciences take a prompt, prominent and unequivocal public position in support of the research and researchers thus attacked, and against such empty, ad hominem attacks, to which every scholar and scientist in the world is vulnerable, if they are allowed to metastasize unchallenged.
It is noteworthy, in particular, that it is philosophical research -- mental work for which it is not laboratory results but conferences, student support and writings themselves that are the product that the research is funded to produce – that is particularly vulnerable to diffuse generic attacks on the worth of the research and the integrity of the researchers.
Hence research in Philosophy and History -- a formal division of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences -- is in especial need of the Academy's explicit support.
Nor is it irrelevant that philosophers -- like journalists -- are often thorns in the sides of governments, on account of their critical thinking -- critical thinking of which Hungary today seems to stand in greater need than ever in recent times.
A national Academy of Sciences is the first, natural defender of the exercise of critical thinking in research. As external members and honorary members of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences we confidently but urgently await the prompt, prominent and unequivocal statement of the Academy's public position in support of the research and researchers in question.
It is the principle of assessment through informed peer review -- as opposed to public trial by sinister, uninformed and unsupported allegations -- that is at stake here, and the stakes are especially high for science and scholarship.
With collegial salutations,
[list of co-signatories below being updated daily]
Adhya, Sankar, NCI-NIH, HM
Alföldy, Géza, U Heidelberg, EM
Aszalos Adorján, NCI,NIH, EM
Balabán, Alexandru ,Texas A&M U, HM
Boskovits, Miklós, U Florence, EM
Bruner, Jerome, NYU, HM
Changeux, Jean-Pierre, Inst Pasteur, HM
Cocking, Edward, U Nottingham, HM
Csörgő Miklós, Carleton U, EM
Dallós, Peter, Northwestern U, HM
Déak, István, Columbia U, EM
Demchenko, A, Nat Ac Sci, Ukraine, HM
Diehl, Volker, U Cologne, HM
Dressler, Wolfgang, U Vienna, HM
Evans, Robert, University of Oxford, HM
Fellegi Iván Péter, Statistics Canada, EM
Flores, Ricardo, U Politea, Valencia, HM
Fried Johannes, Goethe I Franfurt, HM
Gelenbe, Erol, Imperial College, HM
Gertler, János, George Mason U, EM
Grafarend Erik, U Stuttgart, HM
Győrffy, Balázs, U Bristol, EM
Hartkamp, Arthur, Radboud U, HM
Hajdu, János, U Cologne, EM
Harnad, Stevan, UQŕM, EM
Hofstede, Geert, U Maastricht, HM
Hopwood, David, J Innes Ctr, HM
Hortobágyi, Gabriel N., Texas U, EM
Horváth, John, U Maryland, EM
Husar, Rudolf, Washington U, EM
Jovin, Thomas, M-PI, Goettingen, HM
Kaczorek, Tadeusz, Warsaw U Tech, HM
Kahane, J-P, U Paris-Sud Orsay, HM
Kahneman, Daniel, Princeton U, HM
Karády, Victor, CEU, EM
Kazmierkowski, M, Warsaw Tech U, HM
Kende, Péter, BFTDK, EM
Lax, Peter, NYU Courant Instiute, HM
Lee, Y-T, Pres, Academia Sinica, HM
Lempert, Lászlo, Purdue U, EM
Lengyel Peter, Yale U, EM
Lichtenthaler Frieder, TU Darmstadt, HM
Maier, Giulio, Technical U Milan, HM
Mészáros, István, U Sussex, EM
Mroz, Zenon, Polish Acad of Sciences, HM
Muller, Miklos, Rockefeller U, EM
Márkus, György, U Sydney, EM
Pauncz, Ruben (Rezso), Technion, EM
Pápay, Gyula, U Rostock, EM
Pavláth, Atilla, USDA, EM
Pecht, Israel, Weizmann Institute, HM
Petsko , Gregory A., Brandeis U, HM
Polányi, John, U Toronto, HM
Polonyi, János, U Strasbourg, EM
Pretsch, Ernö, ETH Zuerich, EM
Raven, Peter, Missour Bot Garnad, HM
Thirring Walter, U Vienna, HM
Thoma, Manfred, U Hannover, HM
Thorgeirsson , Snorri S. NIH, HM
Thurau, Klaus, U Munich, HM
Tomasello, Michael, MPI Leipzig, HM
Ullmann, Ágnes, Institut Pasteur, EM
Varadhan Srinivasa, NYU Courant, HM
Vető Miklós, U Poitiers, EM
Walter-Klingenstein Grete, U Graz, HM
Wilke, F. Ludwig, Tech U Berlin, HM
Zieme, Peter, Berlin Acad of Sciences, HM
Zsidó, László, U Roma, EM
XII. Fej., 70/G. §
(1) A Magyar Köztársaság tiszteletben tartja és támogatja a tudományos és művészeti élet szabadságát, a tanszabadságot és a tanítás szabadságát.
(2) Tudományos igazságok kérdésében dönteni, kutatások tudományos értékét megállapítani kizárólag a tudomány művelői jogosultak.)
(1) The Republic of Hungary honours and supports the freedom of science/scholarship, arts, ... etc.
(2) The sole parties entitled to decide questions of scientific/scholarly validity and to evaluate scientific/scholarly research are the scientific/scholarly researchers themselves.
Links to descriptions of the ongoing events in question:
On January 28, the Open Letter to the President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Joseph Palinkas, had asked:
"...that the Hungarian Academy of Sciences take a prompt, prominent and unequivocal public position in support of the research and researchers thus attacked, and against such empty, ad hominem attacks, to which every scholar and scientist in the world is vulnerable, if they are allowed to metastasize unchallenged."On January 31 Professor Palinkas's subsequent press release stated:
"It is the authorities who are licensed to uncover infringements of the law and to take action, within the framework of the law, against the perpetrators of such infringements. It is the role of the members of the press to provide public opinion with information on all this in a credible and balanced manner, and at the same time to avoid unjust accusations and pre-emptive judgments…On February 4, the AAAS ScienceInsider reported:
"In a 31 January (in Hungarian), the president of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, physicist József Pálinkás, called for restraint -- '[W]ork in progress is threatened by unprofessional and ill-considered comments, and by deliberately generated political mud-slinging, be this from the world of academia, from public administration, or from the activities of the media.' -- But in an e-mail exchange today with ScienceInsider, Pálinkás seemed to backpedal."It is this backpedalling that the Open Letter must resolutely persist in trying to prevent.
Professor Palinkas has since replied to the Open Letter. A response to Professor Paslinkas's reply has also been sent, closing with the suggestion:
"... that what the Hungarian government needs to do now is to focus on trying to reform its deformed funding system, rather than on trying to take revenge on its critics for the deformities of the old system." [full reply to Professor Palinkas appears below]The AAAS ScienceInsider article is the first English account to have given the developments the international attention they sorely needed. I hope that together with our Open Letter this will now generate far more intense external scrutiny, far and wide.
If it does, it will have rendered Hungarian science and scholarship -- and indeed worldwide science and scholarship, as there is no dividing frontier there -- a great service.
Concerned scholars and scientists worldwide are invited to make their views known at: http://bit.ly/SciHung
Dear Professor Palinkas,
Thank you for your reply to the Open Letter.
Let me begin by stating that even though it was not a response to our Open Letter of January 28, your public statement of January 31 has more or less expressed what the Open Letter was urging, and for that, many thanks!
"'To decide on matters of scientific truth, and to establish the scientific value of any particular research are in the sole authority of scholars'… It is the realm of the authorities to uncover breaches of law and prosecute transgressors within the framework of the law. The press should report on such cases to the public in a reliable and well-balanced manner, without unfounded accusations or foregone conclusions."There are six important points in your construal of the Open Letter that require some clarification, however. As the author of the Open Letter, I take full responsibility for its text, and hence for these clarifications:
1. Crimes and Politics. Let it be made clear from the outset that neither I, nor the text -- nor, I am sure, any of the signatories -- said, implied or believe that crimes should not be investigated and punished, in Hungary or anywhere else.
The real questions are two: (1) Have researchers really committed crimes (as widely accused, in some sectors of the press, of doing)? (2) And is the singling out of the accused researchers for selective criminal investigation politically motivated?
2. Laws, Rules and Enforcement. Apparently the crime (as confirmed in your letter) that the researchers in question are alleged to have committed is "self-contracting" (receiving grant funds through a private company instead of through one's institution, presumably in order to pay lower taxes on the sum received).
This practice would certainly be frowned upon in other countries, and would probably be illegal (or contrary to funding rules) in most. But the fundamental question is whether it is currently illegal or unruleful in Hungary, and if illegal or unruleful, are the laws or rules currently being systematically enforced?
I am sure that none of the signatories would disagree that if researchers are proved to have engaged in illegal or unruleful practices, the laws and rules should be enforced, and the penalties applied, according to the rules and the law.
But that does not quite answer the concerns about selective political motivation:
3. Selective Investigation. I hope you will agree that if it were the case that the practice of self-contracting was in fact widespread in Hungary (among the citizenry, including among funded researchers), and if the current laws and rules were unclear as to its legality, and not being systematically enforced, then selectively targeting specific researchers for investigation would be, as they say, "as easy as shooting fish in a barrel."
Under this hypothesis, the rightful target would be the current research funding system's rules and enforcement (which, in your own statement, Professor Palinkas, you have described as being badly in need of reform), and possibly also the laws of the land: not researchers singled out for selective retroactive scrutiny (for whatever ulterior reason, whether complaints about the size or merit of their grants, or opposition to the recipients' political or intellectual views).
4. Press Freedom. The Open Letter's reference to "dismay about curbs on press freedom" in Hungary today is based on reports that most of the world has seen, transmitted via the international press, about Hungary's new press curb law, which differs from, and is under criticism by, the European Union. What one also hears -- again via the international press -- is that this new press law will not be implemented until after Hungary's presidency of the EU expires in July.
This was the Open Letter's only mention or implication about freedom of the press in Hungary today. There was certainly nothing said or implied about the need to further curb the press! Rather, it was very explicitly stated in the letter that press exaggeration or misinformation should be ignored or corrected; in particular, in the present instance, where it spills over into the Academy, it needs to be publicly corrected by the Academy (which your January 31 statement has now gone a long way toward doing).
5. Academic Responsibility. It is a fact, though, that although Hungary's press is still free (at least for the duration of the current EU presidency), it is, and has long been highly partisan and polarized. It is also a fact that the attacks on the accused researchers issue from one pole of this highly polarized partisan press.
It is not a fact -- but a hypothesis with enough circumstantial evidence to be taken seriously -- that the partisan pole in question is highly influenced by the current government, and looks in some respects as if it has become the government's house organ.
The Open Letter was a request that the Hungarian Academy of Sciences take a principled public stand in support of the accused researchers against prejudgments and vilification from the partisan press (not a request to curb the freedom of the press, nor to obstruct justice).
You have now done that, Professor Palinkas -- though only coincidentally, a few days after the Open Letter was sent; not as a response to our Open Letter, which, as you note, you received only afterward. Your statement is of course just as welcome, regardless of what induced you to make it at that time.
6. Defending Hungary. Our Open Letter was certainly not an attack on Hungary -- a country of which the letter's author as well as all of its signatories are proud and fond, just as we are proud of the honour of being members of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
Quite the contrary, the concerns and the criticism (about the new press law and what looks very much like the selective targeting of critics) were of course about the current government of Hungary, which, even when elected by a 2/3 majority, is not synonymous with Hungary itself. The Open Letter, in both letter and spirit, was intended as much to defend Hungary as to defend its targeted critics -- as, no doubt, was your own January 31 statement – from the excesses resulting from its current extreme partisan polarization.
(As you note in your letter, Professor Dennett, one of the original signatories of the Open Letter, subsequently wrote that as a result of the "torrent of messages both condemning and supporting" his having signed, "I must withdraw my signature in order not to be drawn into this polarized atmosphere.")
I would like to close by seconding your own open statement of January 31:
"The social science research programme launched by the Government on my initiative in the framework of the Széchenyi Plan in 2001 was substantially retailored by the next government in 2002. It became professionally unfounded, financially illogical and legally vulnerable… It is our common interest that such a deformed, incomprehensible and counterproductive system of research funding should be transformed to normalcy. What is needed is an up-to-date, thoroughly transparent research funding system that provides a balanced support of basic research, technical development and innovation….The success of the work we have begun could be seriously jeopardised by artificially induced, amateurish, inconsiderate, politically motivated mud-slinging whether it comes from the areas of science, public administration, or from the media."I would add only the suggestion that what the Hungarian government needs to do now is to focus on trying to reform its deformed funding system, rather than on trying to take revenge on its critics for the deformities of the old system.
HORNOK (full posting):
Quote/commentary on Hornok posting:
Professor Hornok’s posting gives what sounds like a very sanguine public statement about the health of Hungary’s current grant funding system (although he neglects to mention how Mr. Budai picks his targets!). But reading Professor Hornok’s account, one would wonder why Professor Palinkas, the President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (in a statement whose URL is helpfully provided by Professor Magyar in one of his postings) wrote:
PALINKAS (Jan 31):HARNAD:
It is especially reassuring to hear the following from Professor Hornok:
HORNOK (Feb 4):HARNAD:One becomes, however, a trifle less reassured, when one hears the following words from the same Professor Hornok, spoken (in Hungarian) in a rather different context (the Batthyany Circle of Professors) only a few days earlier (translated here):
Hungary needs reform, not revenge. What foreign researchers and funders and expatriate Hungarian researchers need if they are to be attracted to Hungary is a clear, efficient, transparent new system of rules and procedures for research funding, with ongoing auditing to ensure that current and future research funds are indeed being spent according to the new rules and procedures -- not an arbitrary, retroactive, selective show-trial for research funds allegedly misspent long ago, under the old system of rules and procedures, under another government. (The same constructive focus on reform rather than the vindictive focus on revenge might help solve other problems Hungary faces as well...)
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