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Ukraine’s research capacity is down 20% due to war

The impact on the country’s scientific community could have long-term consequences for Ukraine’s future economic growth

by Krystal Vasquez
December 13, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 41

Nearly one in five Ukrainian scientists have left the country since Russia’s invasion began in February 2022, according to a new study that surveyed over 2,500 researchers who’ve been affected by the war (Humanit. Soc. Sci. Commun. 2023, DOI: 10.1057/s41599-023-02346-x) . Of the scientists who stayed in Ukraine, 40% are devoting less time to research than they did before the war, and around 10% have stopped conducting research entirely.

Altogether, Ukraine’s research capacity is down 20%, and this loss will greatly impact the country for years to come. “Science and innovation fuel long-term economic growth,” says Gaétan de Rassenfosse, an economist at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and one of the authors of the study. “The extent that we destroy the science system today compromises the long-term growth opportunity of the country tomorrow.”

And the situation may not improve even if the war ends, de Rassenfosse explains. If the war suddenly stopped today, around 7% of Ukraine’s scientists would have permanently left research, the researchers estimate. Their absence could sap teachers and mentors for the country’s science students.

The international community has been providing support to Ukrainian scientists, but more can be done, the researchers say. For example, institutions could offer longer-term contracts to those who left Ukraine, since at the time of the survey, only 14% of these migrant scientists had secured a long-term contract abroad.

More support can also be provided to the researchers who stayed in Ukraine. Since the war has caused many of these scientists to lose access to their institutions, universities outside the country could help by offering access to digital libraries or computing resources.



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