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$1.26bn needed to restore Ukraine’s research, study finds

Image: EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0], via Flickr

Unesco analysis says 1,443 scientific buildings have been damaged or destroyed by Russian invasion

It will cost more than US$1.26 billion (€1.15bn) to restore Ukraine’s research sector to the state it was in before Russia’s full-scale invasion of the country in February 2022, according to a report from the UN’s education and science agency.

During the two years of Russian bombing, at least 1,443 Ukrainian buildings belonging to 177 public scientific institutions have been damaged or destroyed, a Unesco report said on 11 March. In addition, it said more than 750 pieces of scientific equipment have been damaged or destroyed.

Universities have suffered the greatest losses, the reported study found, and would need at least $980.5 million of the $1.26bn. The remaining needs are divided between scientific ministries ($143m), sectoral science academies ($48.8m) and the National Academy of Sciences ($42.5m).

Restoring the research equipment is expected to cost around $45.9m, with 643 of the 750 pieces considered to be beyond repair.

The actual figures may be higher as buildings in territories occupied by Russia cannot be assessed, the report warned.

Prior to the invasion, Ukraine was internationally renowned in fields including computer science, nuclear physics and astronomy, the report said. Between 2015 and 2019, its total number of scientific publications increased by 45 per cent.

Forced emigration, slashed spending

Unesco commissioned the Junior Academy of Sciences of Ukraine to carry out the study, which found that 1,518 scientists had volunteered for combat.

The report also said that 12 per cent of researchers had been forced to relocate or emigrate from the country since February 2022, along with 18 scientific institutes. Germany and Poland are hosting the highest numbers of researchers who have emigrated, it said.

The number of scientists employed by the public research sector in the country has dropped by 5.3 per cent (4,958) from 88,629 in February 2022, according to the study.

The budget of the National Academy of Sciences dropped from $238.6m in 2021 to $124.8m in 2023, while gross domestic expenditure on research as a whole in the country reportedly fell by 38.5 per cent between 2021 and 2022, from $2.02bn to $1.24bn.

Unesco director-general Audrey Azoulay called for research in Ukraine to be protected and supported.

“Scientists, engineers and other experts will be essential to the country’s recovery,” she said, adding that the sector is “a valuable source of innovation and discovery for the rest of the world”.