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Appeal for assistance for researchers in Ukraine

As a result of the war in Ukraine, research infrastructure is devastated and the researchers are fleeing the country. They can continue their work at other institutes within the framework of scholarships. Researchers should then retain their Ukrainian affiliation, which will keep the continuity of Ukrainian science. President of the Polish Academy of Sciences Jerzy Duszyński releases his appeal.

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In view of the war resulting from the Russian Federation’s attack on Ukraine, the death of civilians, the devastation of Ukrainian cities and infrastructure, including scientific institutions, I appeal to the world's funding and research institutions to organize scholarships for researchers from Ukraine. Moreover, it is particularly important that those who receive such stipends and take up work at foreign scientific institutions should retain their Ukrainian affiliation.

Ukrainian universities and institutes of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine (Ukr. Національна академія наук України, NANU) are being bombarded. Hundreds of such institutions have already fallen into ruin. Ukrainian research personnel are being killed or dispersed in the war. Many of them, mainly out of concern for their children, are fleeing Ukraine. Almost one and a half months after the outbreak of war (data from 2 April 2022), 4.2 million people have migrated out of Ukraine and 2.5 million of them have ended up in Poland1. Quite a number of these people had previously worked for Ukrainian scientific institutions. According to very preliminary estimates, 6,300 researchers had left Ukraine one month after the outbreak of the war. In 2021, there had been a total of 60,000 scientists, 35,000 research and technical workers and 1.7 million university students in Ukraine.

Already on 1 March 2022 – i.e. a week after the outbreak of the war – the Polish Academy of Sciences launched an aid program for researchers from Ukraine, drawing upon its own funds. Seventy scholars received three-month stipends, which enabled them to find independent accommodation and scientific work at institutes of the Polish Academy of Sciences. It is worth emphasizing that those working under this program retain their Ukrainian affiliation. In part thanks to this, science in Ukraine can function despite the war. However, the need for scholarships is much greater. We estimate that there may already be several thousand people in Poland who were previously working at Ukrainian universities and scientific institutions. Just a few days after the program was announced, hundreds of people had applied. We have therefore gratefully accepted support for the program from the American Academy of Sciences and numerous international scientific institutions. This will allow us to extend scholarships to many more of the researchers from Ukraine who, since 24 February 2022, have ended up in Poland. This will also enable us to provide some of them with longer-term assistance. Initially, we have recognized it as a priority to extend assistance to as many researchers as possible and to offer them a return to relative normality.

At a recent meeting of rectors of Polish and Ukrainian universities, almost all the invited rectors of Ukrainian universities turned up – including, quite movingly, the rector of the university in Mariupol, a city that has been 80% destroyed. The Ukrainian rectors appealed that the aid provided should not contribute to brain drain in the long term. Retaining the country’s intellectual potential will be crucial for Ukraine’s post-war reconstruction. That is why a scholarship mechanism maintaining the Ukrainian affiliations of people who have found work at foreign scientific institutions is so important.

It is also no less important at present to support Ukrainian universities and scientific institutes by making space temporarily available on servers so that experimental data, editorial material from scientific journals published by these institutions, and other documents relevant to the functioning of these institutions can be temporarily deposited there. It is crucial for as little as possible of the output of Ukrainian scientific institutions to end up lost in the turmoil of war. Such efforts have already been undertaken by some institutes of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

Jerzy Duszyński
President
Polish Academy of Sciences

1https://data2.unhcr.org/en/situations/ukraine#_ga=2.66918254.1912236645.1648551359-1768016038.1648551359