23 May 2023 10:20

Science in Ukraine: it’s time for “development fashion”

On the Science Day, the National Research Foundation of Ukraine gathered researchers, Ukrainian and international partners to draw attention to the needs of researchers and try to find ways to support science and research in Ukraine, as well as to think together about ways to accelerate integration of Ukrainian science into the global research area.

Stanislav Vilchynskii, Head of the NRFU, Denys Kurbatov, Deputy Minister of Education and Science of Ukraine, Serhii Babak, Head of the Parliamentary Committee on Education, Science and Innovation, Signe Ratso, Deputy Directorate-General for Research and Innovation of the European Commission, and Oleksii Kolezhuk, Head of the Scientific Committee of the National Council of Ukraine on Science and Technology Development, joined the discussion offline and online. Olga Budnyk, Advisor to the President of Ukraine on the Fund of the President of Ukraine for Support of Education, Science and Sport, Ihor Taranov, Director General of the Science and Innovation Directorate of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, and Yulia Bezvershenko, co-founder of the UAScience.reload and Science at Risk initiatives, took part in the panel discussion “Ways to Support Science and Research in Ukraine during the war.” The session was moderated by Associate Professor of Yuriy Fedkovych Chernivtsi National University, co-founder of UAScience.reload and Science at Risk initiatives Yuriy Khalavka.

In his opening remarks, Stanislav Vilchynskii noted that despite the war, destruction, and lack of funding, most of the Foundation’s research teams continued their work in 2022. “I’m proud of our community!”, emphasized the Head of the NRFU.

Stanislav Vilchynskii said that the NRFU is making great efforts to attract international funds. “We are grateful to the University of Cambridge, which will fund the winners of the individual grants call.  We are also grateful to the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), which allocates about ten million Swiss francs to finance joint research. We hope that a new call will be announced in the near future. We are negotiating and are close to signing agreements with research foundations in the United States, the Netherlands, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, and Lithuania. These agreements will allow us to announce new calls for Ukrainian researchers,” told Professor Vilchynskii.

Oleksiy Kolezhuk, Head of the Scientific Committee of the National Council of Ukraine on Science and Technology Development, shared his thoughts on research in Ukraine during the war and on whether “the fashion of survival or fashion of development” is appropriate today.

Oleksiy Kolezhuk is convinced that the statement that war is a time for survival and that reforms should be postponed until after the war is wrong. “We have to think about reforms today,” he emphasized.

The speaker reminded that the issues that the research area in Ukraine is currently experiencing are only partially related to the war (damage to research infrastructure, reduction of budget funding, departure of researchers abroad and to other regions, etc.). This is a large chain of interrelated issues, the main one being the weak connection between the research and the economy.

“It is necessary to formulate the principles on which the post-war recovery of research will be based, to honestly recognize that changes in public policy and fundamental reform of the research area are needed. And we need to start today,” the speaker said.

The post-war recovery poses serious challenges for Ukraine in terms of deep economic modernization. It is research that should be the main driving force behind these changes. “Ukraine with weak science is a weak country. It is not in our interest to remain weak. A weak Ukraine is also not in the interests of our allies and international donors. We must become strong”, emphasized Oleksiy Kolezhuk.

The third block of the program was devoted to integration into the global research area and international cooperation. The session was attended by Lidia Borrell-Damian, Secretary General of Science Europe, Mateusz Bialas, Director of the Representative office of Polish Academy of Sciences in Kyiv, Vaughan Turekian, Executive Director for Policy and Global Affairs of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine of the United States, Sebastiaan den Bak, Interim Director, Head of International Policy at the Dutch Research Council (NWO), Gerson S. Sher, Member of the Board of International Counselors of the NRFU, and Mykhailo Hrebeniuk, First Secretary of the Mission of Ukraine to the EU.

The Foundation’s international partners spoke about the programs to support research in Ukraine that were launched during the war, in particular in cooperation with the NRFU, and also shared plans for future initiatives. Special attention was paid to the establishment of the Horizon Europe Office in Ukraine on the basis of the NRFU. The Office is expected to start functioning in mid-2023. Its activities will be a catalyst for strengthening Ukraine’s participation in the Horizon Europe program and will help preserve Ukraine’s research and innovative potential in difficult times for research, create sustainable links between the research and innovation communities of Ukraine and the EU, and facilitate Ukraine’s integration into the European Research Area.

Olga Polotska, Executive Director of the NRFU, made the closing remarks. “Yes, today many industries and regions of our country are in ruins,” said Olga Polotska. “But thanks to joint work, international support and the implementation of the best research results, these ruins will definitely turn into a new, modern Ukraine!”

  • Watch the live-stream of the event (YouTube)


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