Collaborating with researchers from Ukraine

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The SNSF is launching a joint call for proposals with the Ukrainian funding agency NRFU. One of the aims is to maintain research activity in Ukraine, and to reduce brain drain from the country.

The Ukraine war is still ongoing. Since the full-scale invasion by Russia on 24 February 2022, over 3500 educational institutions have been damaged and thousands of researchers have left the country. “In addition, the state’s ability to support research has sharply decreased due to the increased defence needs of the country,” explains Olga Polotska, Executive Director of the National Research Foundation of Ukraine (NRFU). To maintain the high quality of Ukrainian research and reduce brain drain from the country, research institutions throughout Europe have therefore expanded their international cooperation with Ukraine. These include the University of Cambridge in the UK, the Dutch Research Council and the EU Commission.

The SNSF is also funding research collaboration with scientists in Ukraine and signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the NRFU on the subject around a year ago. As part of this collaboration, the two organisations will be launching a joint call for proposals for a bilateral programme in mid-October. “The value of this joint call should hardly be assessed in terms of money,” says Polotska. “First of all, the call sends a clear signal of how eager our Swiss colleagues are to support Ukrainian researchers in extremely difficult times. Moreover, the biggest added value of this call is the formation of powerful Ukrainian-Swiss joint teams. We place much hope in this call growing into sustainable and long-lasting collaboration both for researchers and our funding agencies”.

Encouraging diverse research and reconstruction

Researchers have free rein to choose their topics. Exceptionally, the SNSF is paying the Ukrainian principal investigators as well as the researchers employed in the projects. This is because even the professors in the country often receive little, if any, pay at present.

“I am very pleased that the SNSF, in keeping with its commitment to a free, diverse and internationally open science system, will soon also be funding researchers in Ukraine,” says Matthias Egger, President of the SNSF National Research Council, on the launch of the joint call. And he is convinced: “Initiatives by European organisations showing solidarity are essential to bridge the gaps in Ukraine as a research location.” The collaborations will also contribute to a sustainable international scientific network, which Ukraine will need one day for reconstruction.

How to take part

Joint SNSF and NRFU projects can last two or three years and are funded by the SNSF through the budget of the bilateral programme of the Swiss government. The first call for the new bilateral programme will be launched on 12 October 2023. It will remain open until 12 December 2023 and will fund around 15 projects.