Scientists in Hungary trust that the climate for science in their country is warming up. Quirin Schiermier takes a look.
Poland is becoming a force to be reckoned with, according to my recent article in Nature Careers. How does Hungary, its near neighbour, compare? Hungary ranks 35th in the world for quality research output, according to Nature Index’s 2015-2016 data. The two countries share a rich scientific legacy and a sharp decline after the end of communism. Hungary’s right-wing government is likewise facing international criticism over its nationalist course.
Overall private and government investment in research markedly increased over the last decade, to a respectable 1.38 % of gross domestic product in 2015. And the National Research, Development and Innovation Office, a funding agency established in 2015, substantially expanded its postdoc funding programme last year with a view to prompt more young scientists to stay in science.
Many universities and research institutes are offering competitive conditions for research, including in physics, neuroscience and biotechnology, says Péter Dombi, a research group leader at the Wigner Research Centre for Physics in Budapest.
The low salary level in academic research is an obstacle, he says. But Hungary is remarkably successful in securing EU funding. The relatively small country hosts more scientists with prestigious grants from the European Research Council than Poland or any other country in Eastern Europe.
Hungary also has several high-profile international research facilities The Wigner centre, for example, hosts an advanced data centre for CERN, the European laboratory for particle physics. Meanwhile, a node of the Extreme Light Infrastructure, a large EU-financed laser facility, is nearing completion in a former Soviet military base in Szeged.
Quirin Schiermeier is a senior reporter for Nature in Germany.