5 April 2022
Towards the end of last year, the ISC published its second Action Plan and described the moment as “an important inflection point for the Council and for science and its relationship to wider society”. We argued that the COVID-19 pandemic, inadequate progress on the 2030 Sustainability Agenda and climate change, growing societal concerns about inequality and social cohesion, and the opportunities and challenges presented by rapidly evolving technologies make the need for science to be engaged more acute than ever.
The war in Ukraine will potentially set back our efforts by a decade or more.
The ISC immediately sprang into action in the early days of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, convening with our Vice-President for Freedom and Responsibility in Science, Anne Husebekk, and the Secretariat to formulate a statement that spoke to the free and responsible practice of science as fundamental to scientific advancement and human and environmental well-being. Subsequent actions include a letter in Nature calling on countries to coordinate and adapt current research institutes – or set up new ones – to incorporate refugee scientists, and to hold regular and extensive discussions with science diplomats, UNHCR and organizations directly involved in supporting refugee and displaced scientists. The Officers of the Governing Board and the Committee for Freedom and Responsibility in Science (CFRS) have also met separately during this time, and an extraordinary Board meeting was convened on 24 March 2022, at which recommendations by the CFRS and feedback from our various meetings were discussed.
One of the concrete actions that the ISC is moving forward on is the Science in Exile campaign, with partners the World Academy of Sciences for the advancement of science in developing countries (TWAS), and the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP), to support at-risk, displaced and refugee scientists:
The Science in Exile declaration will be launched on Wednesday 20 April. We encourage you to share this action, and register for the event here:
In addition, and responding to ISC Members’ requests and concerns, the ISC Secretariat has created a repository of statements on the war from Members, ISC Affiliated Bodies, our scientific community and partners, and intergovernmental bodies. We have also provided advice through this repository and via individual messages.
We ask that ISC Members continue to refer to the ISC Statute II, Article 7, in seeking guidance during this time of conflict. It has already affected many of our Members and Affiliated bodies, including halting of vital research and the human cost of worries for our colleagues’ and their families’ safety in Ukraine, Russia, and neighbouring countries.
The Council notes that while this conflict is being fought on the ground in Ukraine with the loss of lives and livelihoods, its consequences are global, and therefore should concern all Members.
ISC Acting CEO and Science Director