One year of war in Ukraine: exploring the impact on the science sector and supporting initiatives

This report presents recommendations to strengthen scientists and science systems' resilience in times of crisis. While designed as a response to the war in Ukraine, the recommendations are applicable to other crises.

One year of war in Ukraine: exploring the impact on the science sector and supporting initiatives

This report presents key insights that emerged from the 2023 and 2022 conferences on the war in Ukraine, organized by the International Science Council (ISC) and the All European Academies (ALLEA). It also aims to contextualize the conference recommendations within the broader framework of how the international science system and research community can build resilience in times of crisis.

The enriched 2023 edition of the report confirms the validity of the recommendations from the 2022 conference, while highlighting new considerations based on the worsening situation in Ukraine.

Held in March, the 2023 virtual conference brought together over 530 participants from around the world with sessions hosted by Science Europe, National Research Foundation of Ukraine, The Council of Young Scientists, and the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine. The three-day event mobilized the scientific community to evaluate the protection and support efforts implemented during the past year while assessing ways forward for enhanced support and post-conflict reconstruction.

πŸ“‚ Watch the conference recordings and access the presentations

Download the conference report

Second conference on the Ukraine crisis report

Read the full report and check out executive summaries in English and Ukrainian:


The recommendations below were developed in June 2022 with the specific focus on the war in Ukraine, but have also been designed for global application to other crises. Where applicable, the adaptations and nuances emerging from the March 2023 conference are noted.

Governments, the higher education, scientific, and research community must work together to deliver their national commitments to recognizing and supporting the right to education and science within their country.

Rationale: National governments have already signed and committed to international instruments and documents, but further action is needed to ensure their implementation within their country. At a minimum, particular attention should be paid by national governments, in consultation with relevant stakeholders, to fulfilling their obligations by:
β†’ Acknowledging the fundamental right to science and education, including the right to access quality higher education, participate in, and enjoy the benefits of, scientific progress and its applications;
β†’ Putting in place management, programmatic, and financial mechanisms to protect higher education and scientific personnel, systems, and infrastructure during human-induced disasters and war, and to enable recovery and rebuilding efforts. National governments must be capable of rapidly scaling these mechanisms, should there be an emergency situation in their country, with clearly identified contact points and reporting lines to responsible ministries.

Governments, the higher education, scientific, and research community must work together to deliver their national commitments for supporting the participation of at-risk, displaced, and refugee scholars and researchers in their home country or a third country, if necessary.

Rationale: There is an urgent need for national governments to uphold their commitments under Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and be held accountable as agreed in these treaties.
These high-level commitments specifically outline funding and support across international borders and a global response to support countries affected by crisis or conflict. Measures to fulfill such commitments will need financing and policies that address how to keep existing educational and research systems functioning, and the provision of support mechanisms and protection to scholars and researchers, regardless of their displacement status or location due to a crisis. They will need to include standing structures, budget lines, and policies to support higher education and research systems across borders, on both temporary and long-term bases.

The international scientific and research community should empower conflict-affected science systems with the means to rebuild by fully adopting the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recommendations on open science.

Rationale: ‘Open science’ represents the democratization of science and, in an interconnected scientific world, is crucial for enabling fragile or conflict-affected countries to rebuild or develop their higher education and research systems because of the otherwise prohibitive costs of participating in the current ‘closed’ scientific model. Likewise, open science is essential for enabling displaced scholars and researchers to access educational and research resources and continue their work.

All stakeholders must ensure that programs and opportunities are designed inclusively to avoid exclusion of specific groups of at-risk, displaced, and refugee scholars and researchers based on characteristics such as language, family status, gender, disability, cultural background, and psychosocial well-being.

Rationale: There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach that can provide an adequate response. Instead, programs and opportunities need to have an inclusion lens that considers the specific needs of different participant groups when planning and designing support measures. This includes the need for more holistic or integrated assistance to address the psychological, social, financial, physical, and professional needs and well-being of individuals and their families.

2023 Adaptations: β†’ Leadership and engagement of early/mid-career scientists are essential to the rebuilding of a nation post-conflict. Early-career individuals lack strong foundations or experience and need more support to avoid disruption of their learning and career development.
β†’ The international community should better balance advocacy and support responses regarding crises globally, both in the Global North and South.

Stakeholders must work together to develop global mechanisms and coordination structures that facilitate secure academic and scientific mobility – to ensure that the potential of displaced and refugee scholars and researchers is not lost.

Rationale: Crises are complex in nature and require collaborative solutions across the humanitarian, higher education, research, and scientific communities, as well as partnerships with donors/funders, policy-makers, and civil society. Mobility is a critical ingredient to enabling the human drivers of higher education and science systems to survive and thrive during a crisis so that they can drive recovery in its aftermath, but this mobility is often hindered by uncoordinated or insufficient policy responses. Bringing together valuable experience, knowledge, and resources in a coordinated manner will improve efficiency, reduce duplication of efforts, and lay the foundation for structures and mechanisms that can be activated to respond more quickly to future crises.

2023 Adaptations: β†’ There is a need to provide programmatic support for the scientists and researchers that remain in a country during war or crisis and want to continue their work.
β†’ While brain circulation should be a goal, the safety and well-being of the individual is of the utmost importance. It is the responsibility of governments and organizations to create the conditions necessary for people to be able to return once it is safe to do so.

All stakeholders must recognize the evolving needs of academics, researchers, and students by designing more flexible programmatic and funding models that enable changes in location and allow for both remote and in-person participation.

Rationale: Funding and programs to offer virtual support to individuals affected by crises is a new request emerging from the Ukraine crisis. It addresses issues such as travel restrictions and continuity of work, but challenges more traditional program design. Further exploration and advocacy are needed to respond to the request for virtual support. In addition, the need for more holistic or integrated assistance to address the psychological, social, financial, physical, and professional needs and well-being of individuals and their families continues to be highlighted.

2023 Adaptations: β†’ The changing phases of crises, from emergency to a protracted ‘crisis’ to recovery/rebuilding, all required different approaches and support mechanisms.
β†’ Funding models should be flexible in order to be better directed at supporting researchers, scientists, and institutions who remain in the affected country.

Stakeholders must work together to develop sustainable frameworks within and between national scientific, higher education, and research systems that enable a more predictable and effective approach to the phases of preparedness, response, and rebuilding in the aftermath of conflict or disaster.

Rationale: Crises will continue to happen around the world, either through conflict, climate change, or other disasters. There is a need to consider how countries, organizations, and international agencies can more effectively prepare for, respond to, and rebuild after such crises. While it is necessary to focus on immediate life-saving needs at the beginning of an emergency, it is also essential to keep long-term goals in mind and to build on lessons learned. Multilateral science organizations are well-placed to drive this inter-partner lesson learning and framework development.

2023 Adaptations: β†’ Broader harmonization and systematization of standards, policies, values, and principles around response and preparedness are needed.
β†’ An international fund and commitment are needed for a more immediate and predictable response.

While the original recommendations stood strong, there were a few areas that did not quite fit and needed to be further developed as new recommendations.

Response efforts to crises require broader coordination, partnership, and collaboration across stakeholders from different sectors, globally. Efforts to harmonize responses will lead to greater efficiency and effectiveness.

Rationale: The science sector lacks proper mechanisms to coordinate and organize responses to crises. Currently, approaches are ad-hoc, which can create gaps or overlap of programs. As the world moves to an era of polycrisis, there is a need for broader coordination mechanisms between the science, education, humanitarian, and disaster response sectors.

Safe places and trusted interlocutors are needed to bring together diverse stakeholders within the international science community around sensitive and complex issues related to crises to facilitate dialogue that promotes solidarity, collaboration, and coordination of responses and solutions.

Rationale: Crises, particularly war and violent conflict, are complex with various stakeholders, perspectives, and issues at play. Open platforms that can facilitate honest communication allow for reflection and discussion to chart a way forward. Bringing together different entities also encourages a sense of camaraderie and can naturally facilitate collaboration and partnership.

Preparedness and responses to crises are best initiated under local leadership (when possible), in collaboration with foreign initiatives (time and context dependent).

Rationale: National and local actors know best their crisis-related needs, capacities, and complexities. However, in the midst of a crisis, particularly in the immediate emergency period, foreign engagement and assistance are often required to strengthen lifesaving interventions. When possible, leadership should be deferred to the individuals and institutions from an affected country.

The involvement of two groups specifically should be sought after:
β†’ Early- and mid-career researchers and scientists can be highly innovative and forward-looking in developing new responses to meet their needs.
β†’ The science diaspora has deep connections to those that remain inside the country and globally, and can bring together a depth of diverse expertise and perspectives on needs and ways forward.

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Conference on the Ukraine Crisis: Responses from the European higher education and research sectors

Discover the recommendations from the first Conference on the Ukraine Crisis, co-hosted on 15 June 2022 by the ISC and its partners – All European Academies (ALLEA), Kristiania University College, and Science for Ukraine. The Conference’s discussions were summarized into a report, which includes important lessons on how to support the science sectors in Ukraine and in other countries affected by conflict and disaster.

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