Crisis-ready science: a framework for proactive and resilient sector

In an era marked by escalating geopolitical conflicts, the sanctity and resilience of the global scientific community have never been more crucial. This report, "Protecting Science in Times of Crisis: How do we stop being reactive and become more proactive?" emerges at a critical juncture, addressing the urgent need to protect scientists, academics, and educational institutions increasingly targeted in various global crises.

Image of the National Museum of Brazil

This discussion paper by the International Science Council’s think tank, the Centre for Science Futures, who has been informed by the Council’s Committee for Freedom and Responsibility in Science, takes stock of the lessons learned from past efforts, shedding light on the successes and shortcomings of our collective endeavors.

“With this new publication, the Centre for Science Futures ambitions to fill an important gap in the discussions on the protection of scientists and science during crises. The study details options for more effective multilateral policy agenda, as well as action frameworks that science institutions can start collaborating on immediately”

Mathieu Denis, head of the Centre for Science Futures of the International Science Council

The paper underscores the necessity of a unified strategy that not only reacts to crises but anticipates and prepares for them. By examining various case studies, we aim to forge a comprehensive framework that fortifies the science sector against the multifaceted challenges of modern crises.

“Critically, the report comes at a time when schools, universities, research centres and hospitals, all places which promote the advancement of education and scientific research, have been places of conflict, and destroyed or damaged during the Ukraine, Sudan, Gaza and other crises. We in the scientific community must reflect on the creating the enabling conditions for science to survive and thrive.”

Sir Peter Gluckman, President of the International Science Council

Protecting Science in Times of Crisis

This working paper takes stock of what we have learned in recent years from our collective efforts to protect scientists and scientific institutions during times of crisis. It details how scientific communities everywhere can best prepare for, respond to, and rebuild from crises.

One of the key themes to emerge from the new report is that the science sector as a whole has done little reflection on its own resilience in the face of crises, from scientists becoming refugees to civilian infrastructure being destroyed and knowledge and research lost.

Our goal is clear: to establish a resilient, global scientific community capable of withstanding and recovering from the adversities of our time. This paper is a call to action, urging for a collaborative, strategic approach to safeguard the invaluable contributions of scientists and researchers worldwide, at a time when science and scientific endeavour are needed most. 

“This new report serves as a clarion call for the global scientific community to transition from a reactive to a proactive stance in the face of adversity, ensuring the continuity and protection of scientific endeavours. Our committee that oversees freedom and responsibility in science is seeing a growing number of adverse situations for scientists and the right to practice science at a time when our communities are seeking solutions to major global challenges.”

Professor Anne Husebekk, the ISC’s Vice President for Freedom and Responsibility in Science

There is much we can do to strengthen the scope of science in striving for peace. For example, we can foster and nurture collaborative relationships between scientists amongst nations, and by improving our relationships with news media, we can engender trust in- and understanding of science, while promoting unity in the face of shared global challenges. At the same time, we can advocate for a more robust scientific voice in the multilateral system, a goal ISC continues to work on. 

In the direct aftermath of a crisis, there are lessons to be learned from how to respond to immediate needs, the importance of collaboration across borders and other consequences such as addressing misinformation. Professor Sayaka Oki from the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Education
contributed to the report with learnings from the Fukushima earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

“In the immediate aftermath of a disaster it is difficult to have inclusive, comprehensive and reasoned discussions, so we had a real dilemma. A democratic society should have free discussion but in reality, especially for several days after an incident, it can be really difficult to have considered and consistent messaging. So that is when a single voice is needed, but at the same time, it needs to be transparent and clear,” Professor Oki explained.

Professor Sayaka Oki from the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Education

One of the key themes to emerge from the new report is that the science sector as a whole has had little reflection on its own resilience in the face of crises – from scientists becoming refugees to civilian infrastructure being destroyed resulting in the loss of knowledge and research projects – the scientific community must consider its own mitigation and resilience practices in the face of growing threats towards scientific endeavour.

A Call to Action

The ISC is urging international scientific institutions, governments, academies, foundations, and the broader scientific community to embrace the recommendations outlined in Protecting Science in Times of Crisis. By doing so, we can contribute to a more resilient, responsive, and prepared scientific ecosystem capable of withstanding the challenges of the 21st century.

Key insights and recommendations

The publication draws on lessons learned from recent crises and offers a strategic framework for the global scientific community. It emphasizes the importance of prevention, protection, and rebuilding phases in the humanitarian cycle, advocating for systematic, efficient, and coordinated approaches to crisis management within the science sector. Key recommendations include:

  • Enhancing Resilience: Developing systemic responses that leverage the expertise of the global scientific community to minimize the impact of crises on scientific research and infrastructure.
  • Building Capacity: Strengthening the capacity of scientists and leaders in crisis and risk management, and fostering a trustful relationship between science and society.
  • Coordinated Protection Efforts: Improving mechanisms for coordination and information sharing among science actors to protect researchers and scientific assets during crises.
  • Advocating for Science in Rebuilding Efforts: Ensuring that science, higher education, and technological innovation are prioritized in post-crisis recovery and rebuilding efforts.

Additional resources: Press release, Infographics and video

Accompanying the paper is a set of infographics and an animated video to illustrate the actions that can be taken by the science community and relevant stakeholders during each of the three phases of the humanitarian response.

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See more on the ISC’s Centre for Science Futures ➡️

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Image of the National Museum of Brazil by AllisonGinadaio on Unsplash.

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