Czech academic groups are also considering whether to establish cooperation with Russian scientists • RESPEKT
The debate with five other colleagues, who, together with members of the Council of the Botanical Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, did not provide Jan Roleček with a clear guide to his own decision. At the end of last week, the Brno academic began to consider whether, in response to the Russian aggression against Ukraine, he would leave the international project focusing on the research of steppe oak forests under the leadership of Russian colleagues. The Academy of Sciences as a whole condemned the Russian aggression in a statement and at the same time provided and offered support to Ukrainian students, postdoctoral fellows and scientists.
However, a day later, a debate arose among the members of the Council of the Botanical Institute as to whether they should add another opinion on behalf of the institute, recommending that cooperation with research be established with Russian colleagues and their institutions. Some of them saw it as a significant gesture and a means by which they could significantly affect the Russian side, at least until Moscow began to behave civilly. Jan Roleček also saw strength in this gesture.
However, others saw this as the application of the principle of collective guilt, which could further isolate individuals who disapprove of Putin’s regime or its actions, while continued cooperation could act as a positive engine. And they warned that it would be problematic if the boycott affected Russian students, which everyone wanted to avoid.
In the end, the divergent position did not allow the Council to issue an opinion. Although botanist Roleček admits that he understands the above-mentioned arguments, the decision-making in this matter was also problematic for him, as he has been cooperating with his Russian colleagues for a long time. “It’s difficult humanly, especially when one assumes that the person is a supporter of Putin’s policies, but strategic thinking prevailed for me,” said the scientist, who finally announced this Monday that he was interrupting and the reason was unjustifiable barbaric Russian troops to Ukraine – for a specific country located in the center of their research area.
“Please don’t take it personally, I really appreciate your work and the effort you put into knowing the steppe oak groves that interest me so much. Unfortunately, in the current situation, he could not imagine further cooperation with the institutions of a state that denies the basic values of the international peace order. I suggest suspending the project until the situation normalizes (if so). However, if you want to continue, without me and the data I provided you, “the report addressed to the head of research continued. She accepted his position, and also provided great regret.
In a similar situation, the botanist is certainly not alone and observes the contents of his e-mail box: where e-mails of various nationalities involved in joint projects have so far delivered e-mail focused exclusively on professional topics, there are reports expressing support from Ukrainian colleagues and condemning the Russian attack. “This topic resonates very strongly in the international scientific community,” adds Roleček.
Masaryk University terminated the agreement with the four Russian universities last week. According to the statement of Rector Martin Bareš, this interruption of cooperation should not affect students and academics with Russian citizenship in the Czech Republic. Mendel University took the same step. The Prague CTU has again announced the sale of its licensed products to Russia and Belarus, a ban on travel to these countries, and apart from experts fleeing the regime there, it will not accept any of these countries. Head of the Ministry of Education Petr Gazdík (for STAN) he called In order for domestic educational programs to be stopped and cooperation with the Russian side to end.
The whole scientific world solves the issues of cooperation. Debates on this topic have started on ResearchGatesocial networks linking the scientific community, and are broadly in line with the Council’s debate: scientists wonder what steps they can take in Russia’s attack on Ukraine and express their support to their Ukrainian counterparts.
“The usual academic reflection is to see scientific exchange as a vital human activity that should not be confused with politics. But the brutality of the Russian invasion called this view into question, “he explained in his own text Richard L. Hudson, the uniqueness of the current debate.
Last weekend, February 25, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology ended an 11-year partnership with Russia’s Skoltech Institute of Science and Technology. This step, as he writes. Hudson, was one of the most significant measures taken in academia. Last Friday, MEP Christian Ehler, who is also the main rapporteur for the program, called on the exclusion of Russian researchers from the European Union’s main program for research and innovation, Horizon Europe.
The same day, the German Ministry of Science and Research ordered to suspend long-term cooperation with Russia. The consequences of the Russian aggression are also evident in astronautics.
According to Hudson, foreign collaborations for Russian scientists have become increasingly important: according to UNESCO, the share of published research conducted together with foreign collaborators between 2017 and 2019 was twenty-four percent. It was most often a collaboration with American and German researchers, other important partners were France, Britain and China.
Artificial intelligence and energy are among the most significant areas of Russian research. And the technically educated class is the fourth largest in the world. “Since the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, however, along with research funding, it is rapidly thinning,” writes Hudson.
But there is no silence on the other side. Already published on February 24 protest open letter local scientists and scientific journalists, where, among other things, there is no rational justification for the war waged by their country and the signatories are calling for an immediate cessation of military operations. Petition published on a scientific news site TrV-Science almost 7,000 scientists and scientific journalists have signed up, according to AFP.
However, Russian academics face heavy punishment for expressing Ukraine’s support. Russia’s prosecutors said Thursday that those involved in anti-war demonstrations face the same punishment as participating in the extremist organization’s activities, up to six years behind bars – and those who provided financial or material assistance to Ukraine for up to 20 years. Such an act is considered treason.