Transcript
The impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on global scientific research – transcript

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Gali: Prior to the war, we were able to track thousands of articles, papers per year produced by scientists in the Ukraine. When we looked at 2022, we noticed that there’s hardly maybe a dozen or so. Obviously, science has stopped. They’re not publishing probably not doing research anymore.

Voiceover: Ideas to Innovation from Clarivate.

Neville Hobson: During the past 10 years, Ukraine has invested in its research and development infrastructure to enable science and technology companies to grow their businesses. Ukraine has a rich history when it comes to scientific innovation from physics to life sciences, chemistry and engineering. It has developed a reputation as an international information technology hub. It seems though that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has sadly put a halt to much of the research being undertaken. This is something we’ll talk about today.

Hello and welcome to Ideas to Innovation Season Two, I’m Neville Hobson. This is the first episode of a new season for our podcast and our guest today has a compelling story to share with us. I’m pleased to welcome Gali Halevi, Director at the Institute for Scientific Information at Clarivate based in New York. Gali has a background in bibliometrics and has worked in academic publishing and as an information specialist for pharmaceutical and financial companies. Hi, Gali thanks for joining us.

Gali Halevi: Thank you, Neville. Happy to be here.

Neville: You’ve been working on highlighting the contributions from Ukraine to global scientific research, analysing the growth and diversity of subject areas in Ukraine. Now, all that stopped. Give us the big picture, if you would, a sense of what you’ve learned overall.

Gali: Well, as you mentioned before, the Ukraine has a long history of science and research innovation. Going back to the 18th and 19th century, you hear of famous Ukrainian chemists, space engineers, physicists engineers. During the post-Soviet regime, they really invested in building the country’s science and technology infrastructure with hundreds of millions invested in their R&D despite of its overall low GDP per capita.

Neville: I gather, actually in recent years, Ukraine’s attracted many international technology companies who’ve invested over $3.9, almost $4 billion because of its highly educated talent and the high World Bank’s ease of doing business ratings, right?

Gali: Absolutely. Ukraine had become centre for many big information technology companies. Google, Microsoft, Amazon that are setting up centres there because of the highly educated talent that they have and because of the ease of doing business there. It’s very, very true that all these companies infuse the Ukrainian economy with investments that really help develop the country’s infrastructure. Something else I wanted to mention is that we did a lot of background research on Ukraine and we found out that the country has approximately 80,000 scientists.

We were able through our data to track around over 52,000 papers written by Ukrainian researchers across many, many fields of science engineering, basic sciences, medicine, social sciences and so forth. I wanted to mention something else, which is a lot of us talk about and we really look into the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals that were established in order to focus on things and topics that are important for humanity. In addition to tracking papers, we were able to also track papers that Ukrainian researchers are writing and publishing that specifically address the sustainable development goals.

We have noticed that the Ukraine being a part of the United Nations was able to customize the sustainable development goals and made it something that can be applicable to the country. In that respect, we also were able to see through our data that they were over almost 6,000 papers really mapping into the sustainable goals. Finally, I just want to mention one thing, Neville, if I may, that the Ukraine scientific research is highly cited. 50% to 60% of all the papers that they publish is cited and highly cited. That to us is an indication of the great impact that these scientific papers have.

It’s not just about the number of papers but really the impact that they have on the scientific community and beyond. Especially during COVID where we were able to see some brilliant research coming out of the Ukraine when it comes to education, to economic conditions, to research methods all around COVID 19, especially at the height of the crisis.

Neville: That’s quite something. That’s 80,000 researchers you mentioned or scientists rather you mentioned. That’s an incredible number. I had no idea of that myself even. The citation level 50% to 60% of the papers that scientific research is quite extraordinary. Given the importance of Ukrainian researchers and the valuable work they would have been doing now in Ukraine, but can’t because of the Russian war, what do you think is the impact on data gathering analysis and the publication of scientific research information now?

Gali: That’s a really good question, Neville and also quite sad because prior to the war, we were able to track thousands of articles, papers per year produced by scientists in the Ukraine. When we looked at 2022, we noticed that there’s hardly maybe a dozen or so. Obviously, science has stopped. They’re not publishing probably not doing research anymore. This is the one thing that we noticed in the data, the sharp drop in the actual production of scientific papers. In addition to that, we were looking at the early career scientist those are the postdocs, the PhD students, the master students, actually by the future of the country.

We wanted to see how are they faring because we heard that males from 18 and up couldn’t leave anymore and were asked to bear arms and defend their country. We were able to analyse the data and we actually identified almost 60,000 early-career scientists in Ukraine publishing maybe one paper in 2021, maybe one in 2022 early. That’s it. To us, it means that all these young people all this young talent is now forced to serve.

Neville: That’s an extraordinary number, Gali 60,000 young researchers. You can see therefore quite easily the impact that loss of talent in the research community would have on not only the numbers. You mentioned just a literally less than a handful in 2022, but the actual research itself that contributes to all that citation opportunity you mentioned earlier. They are focused then on defending the country instead of this valuable work that is truly, truly extraordinary. I can well see that, that had such a huge impact.

What do you think just projecting that a bit, I suppose? That’s happening now, right? What impact do you think that might have going forward in terms of research that just hasn’t been done because of this?

Gali: It’s hard to tell, but the results are devastating. Honestly, I think we all watch the news. We see what happens. We see the loss of life. We see the devastation. We see people that have to leave their homes and go away. If I may, Neville, I have my best friends are American Ukrainian and they have many friends and family still in Ukraine. All talented people working in high tech, they’re working in science. I speak to my friends quite often and it’s pretty scary.

It gets really, really real when my friends tell me, ”We get phone calls every day from people that we know that say, “Look, if I don’t make it, take care of my daughter,” or, “take care of my parents,” or, “Can you help us.” It becomes really real, right? These pleas for help. I trust and I hope that the country will rebuild and that it will be able to rebuild its science, but at the moment, everything just stops, people fight for their lives, that’s all they do.

Neville: It’s truly is tragic, which leads me to ask I guess an obvious question. With so many Ukrainians, millions, in fact, either displaced within Ukraine or have fled as refugees and we’ve seen the numbers, three to four million. Focusing back on this very specific topic in the midst of all of this, what’s Clarivate doing to support those displaced researchers?

Gali: We came together as a team and we opened the resource centre for displaced researchers in the Ukraine. Our website is at clarivate.com/Ukraine-resources. First of all, we made as many, many scientific academic resources out there for them to access with no barriers. These include the Web of Science, includes books, interlibrary loan and so forth. We try to make access to all the scientific data and knowledge as open as possible and easy to access.

In addition to that, a group of us came together and we thought about, okay, what else can we do to really highlight the grave situation of science and research in the Ukraine? One of the things that we are doing is to actually conduct research on Ukraine science and put it out there. It’s on the website, it’s public, we gather data from our resources, because that’s what we do and we analyse it to highlight the strength that the country had, still has, how are they contributing? What kind of effect that they have.

The impact that they have on the world economy. With hope that by doing that more people will be aware of the grave situation there and how the science that has grown to be so prosperous is now in danger.

Neville: Thank you, Gali. It’s been such a pleasure talking to you today and hearing your insights and views on what’s actually happening in Ukraine right now. Thank you.

Gali: Thank you very much, Neville, I really appreciate the opportunity to speak about the Ukraine and its research.

Neville: Well, it is quite clear that in the face of huge adversity, Ukrainian researchers have shown determination and courage to continue their essential work. No matter how large or small that might be, to accelerate the pace of scientific research and discovery that will in turn accelerate the pace of innovation. You can find more information about the subjects Gali speaks about at clarivate.com/Ukraine-resources. Season Two of Ideas to Innovation continues with episode two in a few weeks. Visit clarivate.com/podcasts for information.

Thanks for listening.

Voiceover: Ideas to Innovation from Clarivate.