Refugee and displaced scientists: A willingness to do more

The scientific community can show leadership on integrating vulnerable colleagues, thereby strengthening the global scientific enterprise for the future.

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The integration of refugee and displaced scientists creates a win-win situation, according to partners in the ‘Science in Exile‘ initiative which is run in collaboration between The World Academy of Sciences for the advancement of science in developing countries (TWAS), the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP) and the International Science Council under the umbrella of Science International.

Peter McGrath, Coordinator of the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP) and the TWAS Science Policy/Science Diplomacy programme, and Edward W. Lempinen, a writer and media relations specialist at the University of California, Berkeley (USA) and former public information officer for TWAS, have written a chapter that explores how scientific communities are affected by war, repression and dislocation for UNESCO’s new Science Report, The Race against Time for Smarter Development.

The full article, The integration of refugee and displaced scientists creates a win–win situation, can be downloaded as a PDF here. It includes the series of practical recommendations for different sectors of society discussed during a March 2017 workshop run by TWAS, the Euro-Mediterranean University and the Italian Istituto nazionale di oceanografia e di geofisica sperimentale (OGS).

In particular, the workshop recommended that host governments:

  • accelerate approval of applications for visa and asylum to facilitate the social and professional integration of scientists;
  • offer employment and career counselling
  • establish a focal point or welcome office that can guide and advise newly arrived scientists; and
  • develop an Internet-based clearing house that collects available opportunities for affected scientists and allows affected scientists to post their biodata and research interests for browsing by host institutions.

It also recommended that research funding agencies:

  • establish grant programmes (with rapid processing times) to help universities, research centres, teaching hospitals and other science-related institutions to employ qualified scientists with a level of remuneration enabling them to support their families; and
  • provide ring-fenced funds for joint academic projects involving refugees and other displaced scientists.

“The workshop also recommended motivating international donors and development banks and other funding entities to help rebuild and invest in the type of scientific and research infrastructure that would be essential to encourage the return of qualified personnel to their home countries, once it was safe for them to do so, thereby stimulating brain circulation rather than brain drain,” say the authors.

The article stresses the fact that this issue is now being addressed through the Science In Exile project.

“The scientific community can take the lead on this issue by serving as a model for what must be a co-ordinated, holistic response. In fact, we would argue that the global scientific community is duty-bound to do more for its vulnerable colleagues.”

From The integration of refugee and displaced scientists creates a win–win situation, part of the 2021 UNESCO Science Report.

Science in Exile

This initiative is a collaboration between TWAS, the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP) and the International Science Council (ISC), under the umbrella of Science International. The programme brings together displaced scientists and existing organizations that provide assistance to affected scientists, to exchange ideas and best practices, identify gaps in building practical support programmes across different world regions, and raise awareness of the issue among governments, international agencies and the broader scientific community.


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Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash.

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