‘Science for Ukraine’ – How European scholars help their Ukrainian colleagues

Just a few days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, European researchers and students are showing unprecedented solidarity towards Ukrainian academics and students. Under the hashtag #scienceforukraine, scientists, research organisations and laboratories voluntarily offer office space, short-term paid positions or accommodation.

During the first weeks of the initiative, already over 1200 offers for support from 47 countries were made for Ukraine. On top of this, the European Research Council (ERC) has encouraged researchers receiving ERC grants to offer positions to Ukrainian scientists.

The coordinator of #scienceforukraine is Sanita Reinsone, researcher at the University of Latvia and part of a COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) action, the EU-funded NEP4DISSIDENT project. We spoke to her about her motivation to help and her perspective on the situation.

What is “Science for Ukraine”?

Sanita Reinsone talking about UkraineWe – as “Science for Ukraine”, are a group of volunteers, scholars and students from research institutions all over Europe and around the world. We work together to disseminate information about support at national and international level for Ukrainian researchers and students who are directly affected by Russia’s invasion in Ukraine. We also raise awareness that such help is necessary, therefore we are informing universities, funding bodies and governments what Ukrainians need.

What can researchers offer to support Ukrainian scholars?

There are different possibilities, starting with offering fellowships for a limited time. We are suggesting not to open a regular, long-term position because it takes time to create. Instead, it’s better to act rapidly by offering short-term help. Additionally, computers, office space and accommodation are needed, especially for students. There is a wide list of things that are necessary. Our help section on the website contains a list and is regularly updated.

Even researchers who cannot host or support Ukrainians themselves can raise awareness at their institution and spread the word. It is also important not to forget that a big group of researchers will remain in Ukraine for a variety of reasons and we somehow need to think how we can provide support also to them.

The initiative has gone viral and has been extremely successful with more than 1200 offers so far. Why do you think people are so eager to help?

I think first of all it is an emotional reaction to what is happening. This is only the third week of our initiative. In the first week I had the feeling the reaction was emotional. The feeling was “We will help you”. Now people think more pragmatic. For example, fellowships come with directed support and airplane tickets or legal help are being paid and provided. While the first feeling when facing the invasion might be to feel helpless, at the end each of us can find ways to help.

For many scientists this is an act of solidarity that includes the research community. What I can see already is that it is a very bottom-up initiative. Instead of governments pushing institutions, researchers and students are going to their universities and institutions, saying ‘We must do something; we must offer something to help’.

What was the response from the Ukrainian community?

We have been receiving information about success studies every day and stories are being shared on twitter. What we also see is that Ukrainian scholars are actively writing and communicating with host institutions and are applying for grants when this is possible. We see also that the Baltic countries are quite popular for Ukrainians. But compared to Ukraine, the Baltic states are small and positions there are filled immediately.

Many Ukrainians might have had traumatic experiences, is there any way to support those people?

We see that universities, especially the larger ones, which have psychologic services, are offering theirs. The same goes for legal assistance, which is extremely important as every country has their own rules and it is not always easy to understand these. It is also important that there are international organisations like ‘Scholars at Risk’ that offer a wide range of counselling.

Useful links:
• The EU stands with Ukraine: website produced by the European Parliament in English and Ukrainian on how the EU has supported Ukraine
Russia’s war on Ukraine: Ukrainian students in the EU
• Initiative by EC Euraxess #ERA4Ukraine
• Consult other EU projects on the ESMH website

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