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Ukraine needs strategy to retain researchers, warns Commission

Image: EU/Dati Bendo

High-level EU visit to Kyiv includes cooperation on R&I and progress towards Ukraine joining bloc

Ukraine needs a strategy to prevent the loss of its researchers, the European Commission has warned, as talks on the country’s path towards EU membership took a step forward.

On 2 February, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen (pictured with Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky) and 15 other EU commissioners travelled to Kyiv for a meeting with Ukraine’s government; the agenda included EU accession for the country, as well as closer cooperation on research and innovation.

“Essential steps to preserve and nurture Ukraine’s R&I ecosystem are being taken,” said information about the visit published by the Commission.

Energy, financial support and humanitarian assistance against the backdrop of the ongoing war with Russia were also to be discussed, it said.

Talent pool in decline

A Commission document analysing Ukraine’s readiness to join the EU, published on 1 February, found that the country is “moderately prepared” for membership with respect to R&I But it highlighted that the number of researchers in Ukraine is falling.

Many researchers fled the country after Russia invaded nearly a year ago, with schemes set up across Europe to absorb those who were displaced.

“There is a need for a strategy to retain and attract R&I talent, in particular from the diaspora, support researchers’ careers and invest in research infrastructure,” the document says.

It also notes that Ukraine has “taken significant steps to modernise R&I policy and align it with EU policies and best practices”, but says the implementation of legislation to improve its R&I system “has yet to provide tangible results”.

Moldova and Georgia

The Commission also published analyses of the readiness of Moldova and Georgia to join the EU. It said both countries were also “moderately prepared” for EU membership with regards to their R&I.

Like with Ukraine, the Commission said Moldova needs a “clear strategy” to keep researchers in the country and to support their careers.

“Further integration of the gender dimension in research is needed, and the career of researchers [needs to be] made more attractive, in order to reverse the brain drain,” the country’s document says.

For Georgia, the Commission said a national roadmap for joining the European Research Area is “urgently required” and that it should include a “well-defined approach on open science but also on researcher mobility”.