[Opinion] Maintain scientific links with all countries, without exception

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, sparked on February 24, appears to be continuing despite pressure and sanctions imposed by Western countries. In early May, the United Nations estimated that out of a population of 43 million, nearly 6 million Ukrainians had found refuge outside their country and that 8 million had relocated within the borders. Adding to this displacement of the population, mainly women and children, is the horror of the war, which has killed, injured and traumatized thousands of soldiers and civilians. It is our duty to help them!

Express our solidarity

An international solidarity movement quickly emerged, with Canada and Quebec taking part, particularly by welcoming Ukrainian men and women. In addition, almost 7,000 Russian scientists expressed their opposition to President Putin’s decision in an open letter. The Ukrainian and Russian academic and student communities are suffering the effects of the war, both inside and outside their respective countries.

After expressing our solidarity with the Ukrainian and Russian student and research communities from the beginning, the Fonds de recherche du Québec (FRQ), which I lead, announced financial support for the next generation of Ukrainian and Russian students (students, postdocs and researchers ) at. FRQ grantee already in Quebec and weakened by the conflict.

The extension of support for those whose funding expires next year will allow them to continue their education and work; In addition, depending on the circumstances, they may reconsider their plan to return to their country or elsewhere, or choose to remain here. Although this decision is primarily for humanitarian reasons, this new generation of researchers who have chosen Quebec as their place of study and research also represents potential diplomatic connections. Diplomacy prepares for the long term.

A guest country for science

In addition to the economic, financial and other sanctions imposed on Russia, there were those that ended institutional scientific cooperation at a time when, paradoxically, scientific diplomacy could play a role in the rapprochement. Beyond the institutions, the links between the members of the scientific communities of all countries and all states must be maintained without exception.

The FRQ promote the values ​​of collaboration, openness, and scientific diplomacy, which can contribute to bilateral or multilateral relationships. Therefore, it is important that they participate in the implementation of measures to develop scientific ties in Quebec by welcoming Ukrainian and Russian students and scientists.

Against this background, the FRQ, in cooperation with the host universities, offers the Ukrainian and Russian student bodies the opportunity to pursue graduate studies or a research internship at a university in Quebec. In addition, they are in the process of developing a program with their university partners that aims to welcome career researchers by facilitating their access to the university network. These people are hired for a minimum of three years, allowing them to continue their work and train the next generation in a safer environment.

In the medium term, the FRQ and its university partners are exploring the possibility of creating a host program that will take the form of scientific missions for researchers from Ukrainian and Russian universities on topics common to the Quebec teams.

These measures will allow members of the Ukrainian and Russian scientific and student communities to remain active under better conditions and to maintain their collaborative networks. These measures have been implemented across Quebec, but the multiplication of these types of initiatives by countries and states on all continents could help maintain Ukrainian and Russian scientific networks, whose expertise will be important at the end of the conflict.

A tool of diplomacy

As President of the International Network in Government Science Advice (INGSA), which has 5,000 members in 130 countries, I have emphasized how important it is for the population, scientists and their families to maintain international scientific networks despite the tragic situation in Ukraine. Most importantly, I urged international organizations and funding bodies to take concrete actions to support members of Ukraine’s research ecosystem.

Researchers fleeing their country should benefit from a sense of personal and professional well-being, enabling them to continue their work and nurture their national and international networks. If the bridges are broken at the institutional level, they must be kept active at the scientific community level.

We are convinced that when war closes borders, science can open them again. As a non-governmental organization, INGSA’s philosophy is to provide governments with best practices in scientific advice, to overcome the differences that may separate us, and to promote open and collaborative science.

The connections we can maintain with the Ukrainian and Russian scientific communities will be beneficial primarily for them and for addressing other planetary challenges such as climate change, natural disasters, risks of pandemics and epidemics, and human and digital security. More than ever, we must ensure that international scientific collaboration and the innovations that result from it contribute to the preservation of democracy and human progress.

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