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War has deteriorated Ukraine’s science sector

Restoring damaged buildings and scientific equipment will cost Ukraine $1.26 billion

by Krystal Vasquez
March 20, 2024


Woman standing amongst rubble and damaged equipment in a destroyed building.
Credit: Oleksandr Brynza/AP
The Kharkov Institute of Physics and Technology is one of the 1,443 buildings that have been damaged or destroyed during Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Russia’s assault on Ukraine has deteriorated Ukraine’s public research infrastructure. Since the war began in February 2022, the conflict has damaged or destroyed 1,443 science-related buildings and laboratories and over 750 pieces of essential scientific equipment, according to a new report from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Repairing the damage will cost Ukraine $1.26 billion, a majority of which must go toward restoring universities, the report concludes. Universities are responsible for conducting 52% of the country’s publicly funded research.

In addition to causing infrastructure damage, the war has led to a diversion of scientific funding. Ukraine’s research expenditure dropped from around $2.0 billion in 2021 to around $1.2 billion in 2022—a 38.5% decrease.

Notably, the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, which conducts 48% of the country’s public sector R&D, has had its budget halved by the government since 2021. The reduction has both forced the suspension of multiple research programs and hit the salaries of National Academy employees. “Average monthly salaries have dropped by 39%, and many researchers have been forced to work part time,” UNESCO says in a press release.

The war has also forced many Ukrainian researchers to relocate from their home institutions. The UNESCO report states that 12% of the 88,629 researchers employed in the country’s public sector have either relocated within the country or moved abroad.

In addition to internal displacement and emigration, the report says, many scientists have resigned, volunteered for combat, or been killed, further contributing to the decline of Ukraine’s scientific workforce.

Altogether, destroyed infrastructure, the shrinkage of the scientific community, and the decline in research funding have greatly affected Ukraine’s scientific output. A study published last year surveyed 2,500 Ukrainian scientists and concluded that the country’s research capacity is down 20%.

“As the situation becomes more and more critical for the scientific community, we must protect and support their research in Ukraine,” Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO’s director-general, says in the press release. Not only will scientists and engineers be essential to Ukraine’s recovery after the war, she adds, but they also represent “a valuable source of innovation and discovery for the rest of the world.”



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