The conflict in Ukraine is affecting Russian science because the West is pulling funding

  • Europe suspended scientific cooperation with Russia after the invasion
  • After the fall of the Soviet Union, structured cooperation collapsed
  • Tens of thousands of dollars in scientific funding have been cut off

LONDON, April 10 (Reuters) – Dozens of international scientists have visited Russia’s Far Northeastern Science Center on the Golima River in Siberia every year since 2000 to study climate change in the Arctic environment.

Although not this year.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry has commissioned staff at the research station to use equipment to measure how quickly climate change dissolves Arctic permafrost and how quickly methane – the gas that warms the planet – can be measured. Is released.

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Peter Hergersberg, spokesman for the Max Blank Society, a German government-funded organization, said the financial freeze would lead to disruptions in continuous measurements at the station prior to 2013, compromising scientists’ understanding of the warming trend.

“(Russian) colleagues at the Northeast Science Center are trying to keep the station running,” Hergersberg said. He declined to say how much funding was cut.

Reuters talks with two dozen scientists about the impact of the Ukraine conflict on Russian science. Many are worried about the future of Moscow after tens of thousands of dollars in Western funding for Russian science were suspended following the European embargo on Moscow.

Scientists say hundreds of alliances between Russian and Western companies will be suspended unless they are completely abolished, and many years have passed since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 to build international cooperation.

Many communication channels have been closed and research trips have been postponed indefinitely.

Projects affected by the cessation of Western aid include the construction of high-tech research facilities in Russia, such as the ion collision and the neutron reactor, to which Europe pledged 25 million euros ($ 27.4 million).

Scientists say such technology could open up a generation of research that could contribute to everything from basic physics to the development of new materials, fuels and drugs.

Since the EU cut off all cooperation with Russian companies last month, another மில்லியன் 15 million ($ 16.7 million) in contributions to the design of low-carbon products and battery technologies needed in energy transformation to combat climate change has been frozen.

“Emotionally, I can understand this suspension,” said Dmitry Zhebashchenko, a Russian environmental scientist who studies forests worldwide and has been with the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria since 2007.

But for science as a whole, he said: “It’s a loss – loss solution. Global problems like climate change and biodiversity … cannot be solved without Russian territory. [and] Expertise of Russian scientists. “

Frozen funds

When the Soviet Union seceded, Russian spending on science plummeted, and thousands of scientists emigrated or abandoned their fields altogether.

Vladimir Romanovsky, a Permafrost scientist who transferred his work to Fairbanks in Alaska in the 1990s, said, “As scientists we realized that our work was not appreciated. There was practically no funding, especially for field work.”

Russian funding has improved, but far less than in the West. In 2019, Russia spent 1% of its GDP on research and development – or about $ 39 billion, adjusted for currency and price variability – according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Most of that money has been spent on physics, such as aerospace technology and nuclear energy.

In comparison, Germany, Japan and the United States each spend 3% of their respective GDP. For the United States, it will be $ 612 billion in 2019.

However, Russian science was encouraged by a partnership of projects with scientists abroad. For example, Russia and the United States led the International Coalition that launched the International Space Station in 1998.

Roskosmos, head of Russia’s space agency, said earlier this month that it would suspend its participation in the space station until sanctions tied to the invasion of Ukraine were lifted.

Russian scientists have helped build the world’s most powerful particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider, at the European Institute for Nuclear Research in Switzerland, known as CERN. In 2012, the collision produced the breakthrough discovery of the elusive Higgs boson, which until then had only been theoretical.

Scientific friendship with Europe continued unhindered after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. But CERN’s governing body announced last month that it would suspend any new cooperation with Russia.

Germany alone has provided about 110 million euros ($ 122 million) for more than 300 German-Russian projects over the past three years. A further 6 12.6 million ($ 14 million) was provided by EU funding to Russian companies for 18 projects focusing on everything from Arctic climate monitoring to infectious animal diseases.

Chemist Pavel Troshin recently received funding from the Russian government for his role in the Russian-German initiative. But with the German side currently on hold, the plan is flying in the air.

Troshin, who works at Russia’s Institute for Chemical Physics Problems, said the joint projects “should be done for the benefit of all the world, and cutting Russian scientists is really counter-productive.”

“I would never expect something like this. It shocks me. I’m so sad.”

Arctic Blackout

Plans to study climate change in the Russian Arctic are also among the stalled emergency research efforts.

“Two-thirds of the Permafrost region is in Russia, so data from there is important,” said Ted Sure, an ecologist at the University of Northern Arizona on the Permafrost Carbon Network.

“If you cut off your vision of replacing permafrost in Russia, you are actually cutting off our understanding of global changes for permafrost.”

This is dangerous for scientists as global warming dissolves the long frozen land that holds 1.5 trillion metric tons of organic carbon – twice as much as it already has in the atmosphere today.

When permafrost melts, the organic matter locked in the ice decomposes, releasing planetary heating gases such as methane and carbon dioxide. Scientists fear that such emissions could spiral out of control of climate change.

Scientists can use satellites to monitor the changes in the landscape caused by the eruption, but cannot take into account what is happening underground, which requires on-site research, Shure said.

Russian scientists have been collecting and sharing permafrost field data for years, but Western researchers are unsure whether those communication channels will remain open. Those databases were also inconsistent due to limited funding covering a wide region.

Sue Natalie, an Arctic ecologist at the U.S. Woodwell Climate Research Center, said her plans to increase Russian surveillance capabilities have been put on hold.

“The tools to go out this year have been discontinued because colleagues’ travel plans have been canceled,” he said.

Contrary to the European position, the US government has not issued any clear directives on dealing with Russian companies.

A State Department spokesman told Reuters: “We do not consider it necessary to comment on such fabrications.” [for the conflict]And the need for continued direct engagement with the Russian people – including in the fields of science and technology. “

Parallel damage science

The Russian Science Foundation’s 22.9 billion rubles ($ 213 million) government-funded projects under the 2021 budget relied on partnerships with India, China, Japan, France, Austria and Germany.

A spokesman for Reuters did not respond to a request for comment on how the suspension of European cooperation would affect its work, saying the foundation would “continue to support leading researchers and their research projects”.

Martin Santop, coordinator of the EU-funded initiative known as the KremlinPlus, said European scientists were helping to build Russian research sites, including a neutron reactor and ion collision near St. Petersburg.

These facilities will enable research in fields such as high energy physics, biochemistry and material science.

But plans for a மில்லியன் 25 million project extension have now been put on hold, and Santop’s team is turning its expertise and equipment towards European companies.

For example, Kremlin neutron detectors needed for a planned reactor now go to a facility in Lund, Sweden.

Even if Russia completes the expansion work, it is not clear how valuable the work will be in Western companies without the tools to analyze the data.

Ephim Kazanov, a physicist at the Institute of Applied Physics in Nizhny Novgorod, near Moscow, said access to European equipment would affect his work using a high-powered laser to study topics such as the structure of space-time in vacuum. Understanding the universe.

Casano was one of thousands of Russian scientists who signed an open letter to the Droitsky variant of the independent online science publication that Russia had become “internationally isolated” with its occupation of Ukraine.

Alexander Sergey, president of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told Interfax State News Agency that many Russian scientists had fled the country.

The letter of protest was temporarily removed from the site after Russia enacted a law on March 4 criminalizing “fake news” in the Ukraine campaign.

On that day, a letter in support of Russia’s invasion was published on the state Russian Reuters Union website, signed by more than 300 leading scientists, and they were later suspended from membership of the European University Association.

Foreign funding represents only a small fraction of Russia’s scientific spending, and its scientists rely on that money to keep projects and businesses afloat.

“Those joint research grants help a lot of Russians,” lamented Russian geographer Dmitry Streletzky at George Washington University in Washington, DC.

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Report by Gloria Tiki and Tasha Afanasieva; Editing by Katie Diegel and Daniel Flynn

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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