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UK gov’t imposes R&I sanctions, new researchers support package launched

The UK’s department for business, energy and industrial strategy has said it will be introducing heavier research and innovation sanctions on Russia – as well as a £3 million support package for Ukrainians.

The scheme will be administered by the British Academy in central London. Photo: Pexels

The fellowships will officially provide a “salary, research and living costs” for up to two years

The package, which will officially be called the Researchers at Risk Fellowship Programme, is to support displaced Ukrainian researchers “unable to return home”, as well as those already in the UK.

“These measures are yet another way we are standing united with Ukraine, its democratically elected government and its brave people at this awful time,” said science minister for the government, George Freeman.

“The UK has a proud history of world class science, underpinned by a commitment to freedom and sanctuary for those fleeing tyranny.

“Today we are taking a stand for science as a force for good and supporting Ukrainian researchers to come the UK,” he continued.

The fellowships will officially provide a “salary, research and living costs” for up to two years, and will be open to postdoctoral researchers – or equivalent – across all disciplines.

It aims, the government said, to “support Ukraine in preserving its research ecosystem”, and will also be extended to include the families of the researchers who receive the aid.

The program will be administered by the British Academy, on behalf of UK National Academies and the Council for At-Risk Academics.

“Host institutions will be asked to identify at least six months’ accommodation for the researcher and their dependents,” the British Academy said in their announcement.

Vivienne Stern, chief executive of Universities UK International, responded positively in a tweet, saying it “dovetails perfectly” with UUKi’s own efforts with Cormack Consultancy Group.

“We welcome the UK Government’s £3m package of support for Ukrainian researchers at risk to help them continue their work in the UK, and look forward to working with the British Academy as this scheme is finalised,” Stern told The PIE News.

We have engaged with the UK Government on how to develop the most effective and targeted actions against the Putin regimeand recognise and support the decision to cease funding new collaborative projects with Russia,” she continued.

In addition to the new research package, the government has also “taken action” providing a list of sanctions on research and innovation aspects of the previous relationship with Russia.

“We are asking universities that have not yet done so to review any financial or academic research ties with Russia given the horrors the Kremlin is inflicting on the Ukrainian people,” said education minister Michelle Donelan.

“These measures are yet another way we are standing united with Ukraine”

“All universities should always carefully consider awarding honorary degrees and we specially expect those awarded to sanctioned Russian individuals to be quickly revoked to demonstrate that we stand united with Ukraine,” she added.

It follows associations such as Universities UK asking its members to “review current and planned activities involving Russian partners in the light of recent developments” earlier this month.

In the new directives, the government did note that the action it has announced is “directed towards Putin’s regime”, acknowledging that in many cases individual Russian researchers may “oppose the actions of the Kremlin”.

“All payments for projects delivered through UK public research funds with a Russian dimension have been paused,” Freeman said in a government announcement.

“I have commissioned an assessment… to isolate and freeze activities which benefit the Russian regime.

“We will not fund any new collaborative projects with Russia through our [R&I] organisations… and we have suspended existing government to government dialogue through our science and innovation network team in Russia including their collaborative science projects,” Freeman explained.

It was also announced that Russia would be “held account for its actions” where the UK is a member of “multilateral organisations”, and reiterated that the government “stands with Ukraine, its democratically elected government and its brave people at this awful time”.

“There is an urgent need to provide support for these researchers away from the war”

“Our world leading universities have always been underpinned by the core values of freedom and liberty, which is why I know they will support us now in taking action against the Russian regime and their illegal invasion of Ukraine,” Donelan said.

Stern did note, however, that due to the “personal perils” some Russian researchers have gone through, universities should also be cautious.

“Many Russian students, academics and researchers, at great personal peril, have publicly criticised this invasion and reaffirm our belief that scientific collaboration and research are a vital global endeavour.

“We would not, therefore, support a blanket suspension of academic links,” Stern declared.

The new sanctions follow many others in other sectors across the UK, and universities and agencies already offering support to Ukrainian students.

“We are exploring ways to enable universities in the UK to partner with Ukrainian universities in order to teach Ukrainian students remotely who are close to graduating, supporting them to complete their studies when they need it most,” the announcement continued.

“There is an urgent need to provide support for these researchers away from the war to enable them and their dependents to get to safety and have the ability to continue their work,” said Julia Black, British Academy president.

“There is a wider issue of researchers at risk around the world and we hope over time to secure funding to broaden access to this scheme,” she added.

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