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Ukraine has lost almost a fifth of scientists since Russian invasion


Remaining researchers are leaving the profession in droves, or spending less time on their work

Ukraine has lost almost a fifth of its researchers to other countries since Russia’s invasion, a study of over 2,500 researchers from the war-torn country has found.

The situation in the country is even bleaker than that stark number suggests: around 15 per cent of the researchers who stayed have left academia altogether. And those who have stayed in the profession and the country have less time to spend on research given the circumstances of war.

“Our survey shows that Ukraine has lost almost 20 per cent of top scientists,” said study author Gaétan de Rassenfosse of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland.

“Many of these emigrant scientists are under precarious contracts at their host institutions. Of the scientists who stay[ed] in Ukraine, if still alive, about 15 per cent have left research, and others have little time to devote to research given the circumstances of war.”

De Rassenfosse and his team surveyed 2,559 researchers who had been employed at a Ukraine institution when Russia invaded their country in February 2022. Their results were published in Nature’s Humanities and Social Sciences Communications journal on 12 December.

Capacity loss

They show that the average time per week Ukrainian scientists have spent on research reduced from 13 hours before the invasion to 10 hours after, equating to the country having lost about a fifth of its research capacity.

Funders and institutions across Europe have scrambled to offer support for Ukrainian colleagues since the invasion. But de Rassenfosse’s work suggests more is needed.

Just 14 per cent of emigrant Ukrainian scientist reported having secured long-term contracts at their host institutions. Meanwhile, 24 per cent of the scientists who remain in Ukraine said they had lost access to the resources they need for their research.

“Our study shows that Ukrainian scientists are getting more and more disconnected from the Ukrainian scientific community, and this is dangerous for the future of Ukraine and Ukrainian research,” warns de Rassenfosse. “Policymakers must anticipate the renewal of the Ukrainian research system in order for scientists to return, and to train the next generation of Ukrainian scientists.”

The researchers also said their estimates are likely to be conservative, as those most affected by the war are less likely to have responded to the survey.