Ukraine has lost almost 20 percent of its scientists due to war with Russia, which began on February 24, 2022, according to a study.

“My city looks worse now after the bombing than after two occupations by German troops,” said Ukrainian scientist Olena Iarmosh.

Iarmosh grew up and settled in Kharkiv, her city in Eastern Ukraine and only 40 km away from the Russian border, where she worked for more than 16 years as a lecturer in higher education before fleeing to Switzerland, nine days after the war began.

To quantify the impact of the war’s influence on Ukrainian research, a team at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland set out with one of the most extensive surveys yet, analyzing the responses from roughly 2,500 Ukrainian scientists in autumn 2022.

The results are published in Humanities & Social Sciences Communications.

“Our survey shows that Ukraine has lost almost 20 percent of top scientists, like Olena,” said Gaetan de Rassenfosse of EPFL’s College of Management of Technology, who was able to hire Iarmosh to work in his lab as a visiting professor.

“Many of these emigrant scientists are under precarious contracts at their host institutions. Of the scientists who stay in Ukraine, if still alive, about 15 percent have left research, and others have little time to devote to research given the circumstances of war.”

Buy Me A Coffee

The EPFL researchers found that research capacity in Ukraine, that is time directly devoted to research activity, is down 20 percent.

The study reports that 23.5 percent of scientists still in Ukraine have lost access to critical input for their research, and 20.8 percent cannot physically access their institution.

de Rassenfosse and his team highlight in the study that “the provision of more and longer scholarships emerges as a paramount concern” for migrant scientists.

As for scientists still in Ukraine, the study suggests that “institutions across Europe and beyond can offer a host of support programs, such as remote visiting programs, access to digital libraries and computing resources, as well as collaborative research grants.”

“From a purely academic perspective, moving abroad may be an opportunity to improve as a scientist, as our survey shows that being abroad means exposure to novelty,” de Rassenfosse said.

“More generally, our study shows that Ukrainian scientists are getting more and more disconnected from the Ukrainian scientific community, and this is dangerous for the future of Ukraine and Ukrainian research,” warns de Rassenfosse.

“Policymakers must anticipate the renewal of the Ukrainian research system for scientists to return, and to train the next generation of Ukrainian scientists.”