Marek Żebrowska and Grazyna Konarzewski headshot photos
Żebrowska (left) and Konarzewski (right). Photo credit: Marek Konarzewski

Science Diplomacy for Eastern Europe: A New Beginning

#SciDipTurns10 Ukraine Russia Cold War displaced scientists Europe

In our 2012 article, “Rediscovering Eastern Europe for Science Diplomacy,”1 published in the inaugural issue of Science & Diplomacy, we called for the reinvigoration of science collaboration with the countries that had gained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Back then, we urged the scientific communities of the European Union and the United States alike not to leave behind the science enterprise in Belarus, Ukraine, and other countries east of Poland. Not even in our worst nightmares did we envisage Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine or that our decade-old appeal would again become so imperative.

Six months after the start of the Russian invasion, it is clear that the response of the Western science community has been strong and unified. The war and the resulting mass killings, destruction of infrastructure, including scientific infrastructure, has been overwhelmingly condemned2 (but see which countries are maintaining research ties with Russia3), and immediate measures to assist displaced scientists have been introduced.4 However, it is now also clear that the war will not end any time soon, and will most likely evolve into protracted conflict, possibly with a fragile truce maintained by negotiations. This poses manifold unprecedented challenges on both a local and global scale.5 Addressing these challenges will not be effective without science for diplomacy, as well as diplomacy for science.

The first, and most immediate challenge is continuous support of the Ukrainian state in its efforts to preserve its research and academic potential. Past experiences in aiding displaced scientists,6 rebuilding Ukrainian scientific institutions,7 and reducing brain drain8 will be indispensable in this respect. On a local level, actions will have to be taken to remedy the consequences of damage to sensitive infrastructure, such as Ukrainian nuclear power plants.9 On a global scale, the looming energy and food crisis will require the analysis and identification of major threats and remedies.10

There is yet another extremely sensitive key issue: How should the scientific community deal with Russian science in light of the statement of the Russian Union of Rectors unanimously supporting the invasion of Ukraine?11 The statement was met with international condemnation, followed by an unprecedented wave of cancellations of scientific collaborations by key Western scientific institutions.12 Should the community however, consider the adoption of a more nuanced stance, distinguishing between institutions and individual scientists? The same question applies to Belarusian scientists, whose government continues to support Russian aggression. Certainly, history repeats itself, as the very same questions were once already posed. Let’s hope that the science diplomacy lessons of the Cold War are not forgotten.13


  1. Marek Konarzewski and Grażyna Żebrowska, “Rediscovering Eastern Europe for Science Diplomacy,” Science & Diplomacy 1, no. 1, March 9, 2012,
  2. Nisha Gaind and Holly Else, “Global Research Community Condemns Russian Invasion of Ukraine,” Nature 603 (March 10, 2022).
  3. Smriti Mallapaty, T. V. Padma, Emiliano Rodríguez Mega, Richard Van Noorden, and Ehsan Masood, “The Countries Maintaining Research Ties with Russia,” Nature 604 (April 14, 2022).
  4. Jerzy Duszyński, Marcia McNutt, and Anatoly Zagorodny, “A Future for Ukrainian Science,” Science 376, no. 6599 (June 17, 2022).
  5. Marcia McNutt and John Hildebrand, “Scientists in the Line of Fire,” Science 375, no. 6585 (March 4, 2022).
  6. Michael Martin, Florence Chaverneff, Sloka Iyengar, and Olga Palinkasev Gregorian, “Understanding and Meeting the Challenges of Displaced Scientists in the 21st Century,” Science & Diplomacy, August 17, 2021,
  7. Duszyński, McNutt, and Zagorodny, “A Future for Ukrainian Science.”
  8. Grażyna Żebrowska and Marek Konarzewski, “Choosing between the United States and the EU: Emigration of Polish Researchers, 1996–2012,” Science & Diplomacy 3, no. 1, February 10, 2014,
  9. Davide Castelvecchi, “Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant Attack: Scientists Assess the Risks,” Nature, March 4, 2022,
  10. H. Holden Thorp, “To Solve Climate, First Achieve Peace,” Science 676, no. 6588 (April 1, 2022).
  11. ‘Обращение Российского Союза ректоров’ [The statement of the Russian Union of Rectors], March 4, 2022.
  12. Richard Stone, “Science Ties to Russia Cut after Ukraine Invasion,” Science 375, no. 6585 (March 11, 2022).
  13. Glenn E. Schweitzer, “Evolution, Impacts, and Promise of U.S.-Russian Techno-Diplomacy,” Science & Diplomacy 8, no. 2, December 23, 2019, E. William Colglazier, “Science Diplomacy and Future Worlds,” Science & Diplomacy 7, no. 3, September 13, 2018,
Diplomacy for Science National Approaches Science for Diplomacy A Decade of Science & Diplomacy