Dear Mr Schiermeier,



We were puzzled by your piece in NatureŐs latest issue since we had previously provided you with all the information to prove that your basic statement was factually wrong, false, mistaken. The scientists allowed to speak in your piece were likewise factually wrong in claiming that in its evaluation system HAS discriminates against scientific achievement obtained outside Hungary. Let me quote again from the relevant part of our bye-laws of conferring a Doctor of Science (Doctor of the Academy) title, previously brought to your attention on our website:


ăWhen evaluating results arising from research done in an advanced industrial country, articles can be included fully into the impact factor total only if the applicant is the first or last mentioned co-author. If not, articles can be included into the impact factor or citation index total only to the effect of 25 percent.


If the applicant competes for a Doctor of the Academy title on the basis of research done in a foreign country scientifically as advanced as Hungary, or less advanced than Hungary, reaching the domestic minimal measure is the minimal condition of allowing him/her to compete for the title.Ó


As you can see, the restrictions included in our bye-laws extend by no means over what all academic institutions in any advanced country routinely exercise in quality-control, i.e. in sifting out professionally uncontrolled or insufficiently controlled publications from their evaluation process.


Since the basic statement of your piece is unequivocally and factually wrong, and to make matters worse, we had previously warned you about this, may I emphatically ask you to publish a correction in this regard?


Needless to say, it is your personal right (subject only to your professional responsibility) to present HAS in whatever light you deem fit. However, let me bring it to your attention that by calling HAS an obsolete Stalinist institution you are unjustly offending for example almost two-thirds of HASŐs members, or indeed three-quarters of our Doctors of the Academy, elected after 1990, not to speak of over one-half of HASŐs research staff who have started their scientific careers since that date.


We have given you advance information over all of this, and more. It is very troubling that you have completely bypassed the information we have provided, and opted for information coming overwhelmingly from persons who, in a concerted press campaign meeting with repeated rebuttals, had on several occasions denounced HAS and the entire scientific life of Hungary. This is why your piece is crassly tendentious and partial, a fact gravely contradicting NatureŐs widely-respected objectivity and editorial integrity. Since it lies also in the interest of HungaryŐs scientific community to preserve the authority of the worldŐs most definitive scientific publication, we are left with no other choice than notifying NatureŐs editor about your procedure.


Gyšrgy F‡bri




Communications and Science Policy




From: F‡bri Gyšrgy MTA [] Sent: 23 June 2006 19:45

To: Schiermeier, Quirin

Cc: Futo Judit; Kro— Norbert; Mesko Attila; Zilahy Peter; PlŽh Csaba;

Subject: Re: Fw: Request from Nature



 _To:_ Mr Quirin Schiermeier



 Correspondent - Nature Magazine


/_From: _Gyšrgy F‡bri PhD




Communications and Science Policy Division Hungarian Academy/ / of Sciences/



_/*Dear Mr Schiermeier,*/_

Let me first thank you first of all for your interest in how the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (HAS) operates. I answer your letter on behalf of Professor E. Sylvester Vizi, President of the HAS and Professor Norbert Kro—, Vice-President of HAS and member of ERC. Let me also forward President Vizi's greetings to you. Vice-President Professor Norbert Kro— joins me in wishing you success in the accumulation of facts and data about HAS.

In answer to the first group of your queries, I send to you a fact-sheet enclosed. Presumably, by now you have been able to acquire ample information to our Hungarian and English language websites concerning your queries over data (** <>;

** <>)*


To the second group, I just want to place Hungarian scientific life and science policy into their current context for you.


Created out of public donations in 1825, HAS was meant to be an institution working for the cultivation of Hungarian scholarship and science quite independently of the Government. Its current structure and functions have taken their final shape in sync with the democratic political process that has been underway in Hungary for almost 20 years now. It was a part of that process that the freely elected Hungarian Parliament enacted a law in 1993 to allot to the Academy the triple task of maintaining a state-of-the-art research network, preserving the values of past research, and upholding Hungarian national-cultural traditions.


Thus, today HAS is a nation-wide public body based upon the principle of the autonomy of science. It has some 12 000 members with scientific degrees. It operates an efficient research network running approximately 40 research institutes active in almost all fields of the natural and the social sciences. HAS's research personnel of 2 500 scholars and scientists make up one-eighth of all researchers working in Hungary, but contribute to Hungarian R + D by an output (publications, participation in international projects, etc.) of more than a quarter of the national total.


Especially important is HAS's contribution to basic research, the organic foundation for higher learning, research, and corporate development. HAS also operates 171 research groups at universities while most of its members and doctors are engaged also in university teaching.


As to the relationship of scientific degrees earned abroad to those earned within Hungary, HAS is in the process of transforming its interior regulations in order that the two are readily interchangeable. As part of the Bologna-process since 2000, Hungary has worked for a common platform for evaluating scientific achievement. HAS is presently working on an initiative which would suggest to all member states of EU the adoption of its own Doctor of the Academy title because this might would help to conserve and harmonise quality in research.


Although Doctor of the Academy titles conferred by HAS has no centralised, administratively regulated status, enjoy such a high value and authority that most Hungarian universities have freely chosen to accept them in their own habilitation (naturalisation) processes. Of the six Centre of Excellence titles assigned by the EU to Hungarian research institutions, five belong to HAS. On an international level, HAS has been very active in bringing forth the European Research Council as well as the bi-annual World Science Forum - Budapest conferences.


Yet, a crucial issue for all types of of international scientific co-operation and harmonisation is the financing of research. The case of Hungary is by no means an exception. The financial rewards that leading Hungarian researchers can enjoy are pitiful. The far smaller special monthly supplementary remuneration given to 341 members of HAS and to some 2 500 Doctors of the Academy (some of whom are world authorities in their fields) cannot change the sorry picture by much. Let me mention also that both membership with HAS and Doctor of the Academy titles are earned strictly on a principle of achievement, and by an entirely public and transparent selection mechanism.


I hope I could summarise the most important facts of the structure of the Hungarian scientific life. However, because of lack of space I might have missed out some details. I would be glad to review the final version of your article to make sure every detail is correct. Therefore I would be most grateful if you could send me your article before publishing.



Gyšrgy F‡bri PhD


Communications and Science Policy

Hungarian Academy of Sciences












Dear Mr. Campbell,


We have read the article HungaryŐs science academy slammed as ăobsoleteÓ with some uneasiness since this article written by Mr. Schiermeier contains several factual errors. May we ask you to publish our Reply aiming to correct the errors at your earliest convenience?


We hope you appreciate that our Reply wishes to preserve the high standard of the editorial policy of Nature.




L‡szl— ROMICS, Chairman of the Medical Division of HAS

G‡bor MAKARA, Member of the Medical Division of HAS

Andr‡s SP€T, Member of the Medical Division of HAS

Reply from members of the ŇobsoleteÓ Hungarian Academy of Sciences


The short article on ăHungaryŐs science academy slammed as ÔobsoleteŐÓ echoes the recent press attacks against basic science in Hungary and is as weak on its facts as its sources in the Hungarian press. Four of its factual errors are discussed below.


1.      Mr. J‡nos K—ka (36), government minister of Economy and Transport, is responsible for R&D and technical innovation (, but not science (and science policy), as has been stated. He is known to use colourful language stating for example in the Hungarian press that basic science not leading to immediate economic gains is worthless, or that all successful Hungarian scientists passed away long ago.


2.      As defined by law, new members of Hungarian Academy of Sciences (HAS, founded in 1825) are elected by the general assembly of members, not by an Ňelection committeeÓ.


3.      The ŇDoctor of ScienceÓ (DSc) title has been called since 2001 the ŇDoctor of the AcademyÓ (D.Ac.) since it is awarded by HAS and is regarded therefore as an independent and not university certification of scientific excellence. The applicant for the Doctor of the Academy submits a thesis which is evaluated by rigorous, open peer review and a public defence in front of a committee of peers. Before the onset of the peer review process, the medical division of HAS uses a set of threshold requirements exclusively for the biomedical sciences using citations and the impact factor of the publications. This threshold is designed to indicate what is, and what is not considered outstanding achievement in biomedical sciences. Accordingly Ňmiddle authorsÓ of multi-author papers from institutions abroad are weighted less (25%) in calculating the threshold while first and last authors are given full weight. Beyond this threshold the evaluation proceeds without geographical consideration. It is hard to see how such a threshold for a Doctor of the Academy title might be an obstacle to European mobility of outstanding scientists.


4.      For university professorship, in addition to educational experience, it is scientific achievements that are required, and this can be certified by a Doctor of the Academy title although this title is not a mandatory condition in most universities for professorship.


L‡szl— ROMICS, Chairman of the Medical Division of HAS

G‡bor MAKARA, Member of the Medical Division of HAS

Andr‡s SP€T, Member of the Medical Division of HAS