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In this post, TCM’s Mariya Chukhnova shares takeaways from running a critical project in support of the Ukrainian scientific community. She highlights:
Resilience of Ukrainian scientists: Despite the challenging circumstances of war, Ukrainian scientists have shown remarkable resilience and dedication to their work. They continue to contribute to research and innovation, even in the face of adversity.
Critical need for support: The destruction and damage inflicted on scientific institutions and equipment have created a critical need for support. It is essential to provide resources and assistance to rebuild infrastructure, replace equipment, and ensure the continuity of scientific activities.
“Brain drain” and talent retention: The war has led to a significant brain drain, with many Ukrainian scientists seeking opportunities abroad. To retain valuable talent, it is crucial to address the underlying issues and create an environment that fosters scientific development and provides incentives for scientists to stay in Ukraine.
International collaboration: International collaboration plays a vital role in supporting Ukrainian science and innovation. Partnerships with foreign institutions and organizations can provide resources, expertise, and opportunities for knowledge exchange, helping to strengthen the Ukrainian scientific community.
Long-term investment: Sustainable development of Ukrainian science requires long-term investment. Adequate funding, infrastructure, and support mechanisms are essential to ensure the growth and success of scientific endeavors in Ukraine.
Since Russia's invasion, Ukraine and its Scientific Community have become a significant focus of international security. The conflict has highlighted the importance of supporting Ukraine's stability, sovereignty, and development. The scientific community plays a key role in addressing the challenges and contributing to the security of Ukraine and the region.
Ukraine's scientific expertise and research capabilities have gained international attention, particularly in areas such as defense technology, cybersecurity, and strategic analysis. Collaborative efforts with international partners have intensified to enhance Ukraine's defense capabilities and strengthen its resilience in the face of external threats.
However, Ukrainian science is under attack. In one year, the Ukrainian scientific community carried substantial losses. According to the 2022 National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine Annual Report, in the last year:
40 scientific institutions were partially or severely damaged
220 facilities were either severely damaged or destroyed
630 units of scientific equipment were damaged, destroyed, or stolen
These numbers demonstrate the devastating impact of the attacks on the Ukrainian scientific infrastructure. The destruction of scientific institutions, facilities, and equipment not only hinders ongoing research and innovation but also undermines the progress and development of Ukrainian science writ large. This, in turn, affects economic development, stability, and security.
Science drives innovation, and innovation drives progress. A global majority living in secure countries use smart technology, benefit from sophisticated medical facilities, and largely exist indirectly taking innovation for granted. We always want more, but rarely consider the human capital and financial investments that made it a reality.
Innovation supports economic growth by creating competitive markets through improving products and services and offers solutions to old challenges. Innovation can also protect. In the case of Ukraine, the West provides some of the most sophisticated equipment to defend Ukraine and its people from Russia’s atrocious daily attacks. America-made Air Defense Systems “Patriot” shot down 18 out of 18 missiles during the most intense attack on Kyiv on May 16.
When scientific innovation is not supported - especially in a war zone - forced displacement, layoffs, pay cuts, and other threats to this vibrant and skilled community arise. Many Ukrainian scientists fled abroad, seeking support in shelters or host communities. These professionals should receive assistance including training, fellowships, and temporary job placement. But a sole focus on this diaspora who left dismisses the needs of those who remained and continue working for sustainable development of Ukrainian science, in spite of the challenges and risks.
Those who obtained temporary jobs abroad will have the choice to return or not. Some – perhaps many – may not. Once scientists stay long enough, especially those with children, they begin assimilating into a foreign societies, and only those who have families in Ukraine are most likely to return.
“Brain-drain” is the key issue that Directors and Heads of Department of Ukrainian institutions are worried about. Despite the continuous airstrikes, power outages, and underfunding, Ukrainian scientific institutes and research facilities continue their daily operations. They continue crucial research that will drive innovative development to secure Ukraine and its partners. Institutional leadership do their best to keep scientists engaged, compensated, and prevent them from leaving.
Of course, each institution has its unique list of needs. Therefore, as the international donor community seeks to increase investment in Ukrainian scientific professionals who are – and intend to return to or remain in Ukraine – TCM encourages international donors to reevaluate their approach. Communicating with scientific institutional representatives and addressing critical needs aimed at retaining Ukraine’s valuable human capital should be a top priority.
Innovation should not stop, and innovators like Ukrainian scientists and institutional leaders should have all the tools.
TCM is proud to highlight our new partnership with the Institute of General Energy of The National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine to support our Ukrainian scientific partners and ensure that their community remains innovative, resilient, resourceful, and solution-oriented as international donors assess their investments in this critical community.
Mariya Chukhnova serves as TCM's Project Coordinator for Ukraine and Eastern Europe
Prior to joining The Critical Mass, Mariya worked as Project Manager at Sovereign Ventures, assisted Ukrainian minors at refugee camps with The Providencia Group, and is a graduate of the Harriman Institute at Columbia University
Resources and References:
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Free or low-cost marketing tools like LinkTree, Bit.ly, Canva
Publishing and tracking engagement on Issuu
Engagement tips on the main Social Media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook
Tips for enhancing your Monitoring & Evaluation experience through MS Forms, QR codes, and other digital tools
Engaging in multiple languages and hasty translation via TCM’s preferred free service
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