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Hungary: CEU’s prestigious BabyLab at risk of being walled in

Budapest, Hungary – The operation of the prestigious BabyLab of the Central European University (CEU) is now sabotaged by an Italian restaurant, La Fabbrica’s plan to build an ‘outdoor patio’ in front of the lab’s windows.

Once construction is done, the lab’s windows will open to the inside of the restaurant instead of the street, researchers and participants greeted by the smell of food and noise coming from the restaurant.

Allegedly, the restaurant got all the required permits from the district as well as from the National Office of Cultural Heritage. Both the district and the Heritage Office are controlled by Fidesz, the party in government.

The CEU BabyLab is part of the university’s Cognitive Development Center established in 2008 for the study of cognitive development of human infants.

Szabad Egyetem (Free University), CEU’s prominent activist collective, has started a petition to demand the immediate withdrawal of restaurant’s permit and an official apology to the scientists for the inconvenience they have already caused. On their page, they also highlight the significance of BabyLab and what this kind of provision tells us about the way Hungary’s government values scientific research:

“We object to the disregard for the important research produced by the prestigious BabLab. At the lab topics such as how babies learn, communicate and reason are explored. The lab has produced numerous articles in prestigious journals such as Science, and its researchers hold highly competitive grants from the European Research Council — the organization responsible for funding scientific and technological research conducted within the European Union. Additionally, some of its researchers are members of the prestigious U.S. Academy of Sciences and other international academies. The BabyLab currently being walled in is one of the most important centers of research in Europe.

Finally, what does this say about the government’s priorities and support of quality research? Fidesz has already gone to great lengths to make the independent research and education impossible by forcing CEUs education programs to relocate to Vienna and stripping the MTA of its autonomy to decide what to research. Must you also wall in any remaining vestiges of quality research?”

By Zsofi Borsi

A Budapest-born politics and economics graduate of Durham University, UK, Zsofi Borsi wrote her thesis on conspiracy theories present in Hungarian online political discourse. She currently pursues her graduate studies at Central European University in Budapest and Vienna. Zsofi has worked as an intern at various political and non-governmental organisations in Hungary, such as Political Capital Research and Consultancy Institute, Tom Lantos Institute or Klubrádió. To check out her latest articles, it’s right here!

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