Scientists in Hungary are worried the government is trying to take control of their research funding with a new financing scheme. Thousands formed a human chain around the headquarters of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

Researchers at the protest handed a petition to academy president and renowned mathematician Laszlo Lovasz, asking him to support keeping their research institutes under the academy’s management. The academy oversees some 5,000 researchers in a range of disciplines, from medicine and economics to computer science and astronomy.

As reported by the Associated Press (AP), the scientists fear the new financing system being pushed by the ministry for innovation and technology — which takes away basic funding for the research institutes and forces researchers to compete for funds for specific projects — will seek to impose political and ideological goals on their scientific work, while curbing their long-term financial and professional security.

Researchers also fear the government could eliminate institutions dedicated to the humanities and social sciences, where direct economic profits may be harder to demonstrate.

“If, after all, we yield to the will of the ministry … then there’s no question that our community will lose its cardinal value, its independence,” Adrienn Szilagyi, a researcher at the Institute of History, was quoted as saying by AP.