Make science ‘a cornerstone’ of a rebuilt Ukraine, academies urge

Joint appointments, infrastructure sharing and publication fee waivers will help to rebuild Ukraine’s science system, say Western scientific bodies

June 14, 2022
Russian and Ukrainian flags with shadows of soldiers
Source: iStock

New funding schemes to support early career researchers, joint appointments with Western universities and the replacement of infrastructure must be central to a post-war plan to revive Ukraine’s battered research system, leading scientific organisations have said.

In a letter signed by representatives of national academies of science in the US and several European countries, agreed following a meeting in Warsaw earlier this month, global leaders are urged to develop grants and programmes to support “rebuilding a modern and globally integrated science and research system”.

“Rebuilding science and research in Ukraine [will be] critical to ensure its long-term prosperity and sovereignty,” says the letter, which is signed by the US National Academy of Sciences, the UK’s Royal Society and similar organisations in Germany, Poland, Denmark and Poland.

Among the “practical steps” outlined in a 10-point blueprint are “specific funding programmes directed to early career researchers from Ukraine and their teams, including such using remote working agreements”, and “establish[ing] funding programmes for joint research by international teams with researchers working in Ukraine and provide for joint appointments”.

The plan calls on Western universities to allow displaced Ukrainian academics to “maintain institutional affiliations in Ukraine [when] receiving temporary appointments abroad, in order to encourage repatriation once hostilities cease and the overall situation improves”.

It calls on European and US universities to “provide access to specialised research facilities abroad, especially those that duplicate Ukrainian facilities damaged or destroyed during the hostilities”, as well as to “donate much needed and still useable laboratory and research equipment to Ukrainian institutions to replace capabilities destroyed during the war”.

The letter also calls for publishers to waive article processing charges for Ukrainian academics, as well as to provide free journal access to institutions within Ukraine, which some journal providers have already implemented. Meanwhile, scientific organisations are urged to drop membership dues and conference participation fees.

More broadly, the academics call on institutions to “establish brain circulation measures for Ukrainian researchers for networking and mutual learning with colleagues and organisations in the international scientific community”.

They also call for the creation of a “coordination council to maximise impacts, minimise redundancy, and make meaningful use of synergies, accounting for issues related to junior and senior-level researchers”.

Writing in Science, Jerzy Duszyński, who heads the Polish National Academy of Sciences, Marcia McNutt, from the US National Academy of Sciences, and Anatoliy Zagorodny, president of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, explain how the Russian invasion had, in many cases, sought to deliberately “destroy the nation’s scientific institutions and infrastructure, signalling Russia’s intent to obliterate the future for Ukraine”.

“It is vital that science be a cornerstone of any post-war reconstruction of Ukraine,” they add, stating that “rebuilding Ukrainian science should not concentrate on replicating what was lost, but on equipping the country’s scientific enterprise to meet shared 21st-century challenges – such as preparing for future pandemics, fighting climate change, and sharing the benefits of science equally and equitably.”

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