One scientific specimen—the skull of a Strand’s birch mouse—smuggled out of the war zone in Luhansk, Ukraine.

One scientific specimen—the skull of a Strand’s birch mouse—smuggled out of the war zone in Luhansk, Ukraine.

R. Stone

U.S. nonprofit hopes to throw lifeline to Ukrainian scientists

Fighting in eastern Ukraine has turned tens of thousands of scientists and university students into refugees in their own country. With the conflict in its second year and no resolution in sight, CRDF Global, a nonprofit in Arlington, Virginia, announced today the creation of an emergency fund for displaced Ukrainian scientists.

In April 2014, Russian-backed separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions—an area called Donbas—declared independence from Ukraine. After fighting intensified last summer, the Ukrainian government relocated 26 research institutes and universities to territory it controls. Most displaced researchers and students have found safe havens elsewhere in Ukraine, says physicist Maksym Strikha, deputy education and science minister. But they typically hold temporary positions and aren’t able to conduct research. The cash-strapped Ukrainian government can do little to help, Strikha says.

CRDF Global hopes to throw those scientists a lifeline. But it must first raise the money. The coffers are empty, says CRDF Global President Cathy Campbell, who expects the bulk of donations to come from private individuals. She says her organization will work with Ukrainian government officials to decide how the funds are spent. While the fund will initially target the dislocated scientists, she says, the long-range goal is to spur technology entrepreneurship in Ukraine.

The greatest need right now, Strikha says, is equipping laboratories and refurbishing other facilities at university departments and institutes swollen with new arrivals. Strikha doesn’t expect the situation to improve anytime soon, but he’s trying to stay upbeat: “The good news is we’re holding on.”