Funding for the research network has more than doubled to nearly HUF 50 billion, researcher salaries have been increased by an average of 30 percent, budget allocation has been transformed to consider the institutions’ scientific performance, which promotes scientific excellence – these are some of the key achievements of the Eötvös Loránd Research Network during its first two years of operation. In addition to broadening and strengthening international relations, a new system aimed at providing comprehensive support for researchers in innovation management is being developed. Adding new areas and institutions to the network also features among future plans.
The Eötvös Loránd Research Network (ELKH) celebrates the 2nd anniversary of its foundation. The ELKH Secretariat was established by the Hungarian Parliament effective August 1, 2019, with the aim of managing and operating Hungary’s publicly funded independent research network. It is led by a 13-member Governing Board, six members of which are nominated by the President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and six members by the Minister for Technology and Innovation, and they jointly nominate the President. All nominees are appointed by the Prime Minister of Hungary. The President and most members of the Governing Board are members of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
“In the two years since our foundation, we have achieved forward-looking results in several areas, including the development of the research network, improving researcher salaries, significantly increasing the funds available to the research network, and the development and introduction of a three-pillar financing model for resource allocation. All these contribute to increase efficiency and transparency,” said ELKH President Miklós Maróth on the anniversary. He added: “The establishment of a professional organization and management dedicated to the research network has enabled targeted, efficient and fast decision-making, and has allowed for the provision of more focused support to the institutions.”
ELKH’s mission is to protect and advance academic freedom, to ensure more efficient and effective operation of the research network, and to promote scientific excellence in the areas of both basic and applied research. One of the most significant achievements is the increase in the funds allocated to the research network. As a result, the budget of ELKH has been more than doubled reaching close to HUF 50 billion annually. The increase in funding has allowed to commence the development of the research infrastructure, provide resources for research and begin the long-awaited pay rise. The salaries of the researchers and all employees of the research network have been increased by an average of 30 percent.
The replacement of the former civil servant status with employment contracts based on the Hungarian Labor Code has enhanced the freedom and flexibility of the institutions in determining salaries and also significantly reduced their administrative burden.
ELKH has developed and introduced a new three-pillar financing model to replace the former static system. Under the new model, the main scientific metrics and other measurable scientific achievements of the institutions over the past three years are also considered when allocating the resources for research. From 2021, the funds provided to the research sites fully cover their operating costs and the resources needed for specific, long-term research. Decisions on the use of resources dedicated to subtasks has been delegated to the institution heads, thus significantly increasing both the autonomy and the accountability of the institutions. As it is built on verified objective data, the process has become more transparent. The new system aims to encourage scientific excellence, which will also help increase the competitiveness of the research network.
ELKH is in the process of developing a new internal innovation system with the aim of improving scientific competitiveness, leveraging external research funding opportunities more effectively and ensuring more efficient use of the intellectual property portfolio of the research network. A two-tier advisory network is being built to effectively assist institutions and researchers in innovation management, in obtaining funding from tenders and other external resources, as well as in industrial property protection and utilization matters related to research results.
Recently, ELKH has joined four major international organizations. Science Europe is the most significant among these. Science Europe is an association of major European research funding and research performing organizations. Also notable is our International Science Council membership. In addition, ELKH has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) to strengthen and further develop scientific cooperation between the two institutions.
“By developing the infrastructure, improving research conditions, and increasing salaries, we want to make it worthwhile for our researchers to stay and carry out research in Hungary, as well as encouraging those working abroad to return home. We need to stop the brain drain, which is only possible by continuing to improve salary conditions, which will however require an increase in budgetary support,” emphasized the President of ELKH. “An important factor in increasing efficiency is to identify the niche areas in each field of science where we can achieve world-leading results, while also considering the social and economic needs of Hungary. We are in the process of defining these areas in cooperation with the institution heads. In addition, new research areas that are not as yet covered are being identified, where, building on the skills and capabilities available in the country, we may be able to achieve considerable results. Our plans also include expanding the research network in these directions,” added Miklós Maróth.