Leggi in italiano

Kharkiv, northeastern Ukraine. Fire engines intervene after the shelling of the Kharkiv Regional State Administration building in Svobody (Freedom) Square on Tuesday, March 1. Credit: Vyacheslav Madiyevskyy/Abaca Press/ Alamy Stock Photo.

Italy is preparing to provide opportunities to scholars fleeing Ukraine after Russia’s invasion of the country. On 28 February, the government earmarked €500,000 for support to Ukrainian students and researchers living in Italy, or escaping to Italy from their country. The government has urged academic institutions to come forward with information about potential grants and opportunities for Ukrainian scholars.

Maria Chiara Carrozza, president of the National Council for Research (CNR), says the institute is still assessing the number of researchers it can host. Other institutions are following suit. “We are going to activate a programme to support Ukrainian scientists who work with us and we are open to host scientists coming from Ukraine,” says Antonio Zoccoli, director of the National Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN).

Meanwhile, academics based in Italy have joined Science for Ukraine, an initiative that started in Latvia to map institutions offering positions tailored to Ukranian scholars. The list had eight opportunities in Italy yesterday. “The offers should be at least two or three months long, to give some stability and the possibility to continue the researcher’s career, and it’s important that they come with some help on the legal and accommodation aspects”, says Marcin Bartosiak, a Polish researcher in information systems at the University of Pavia, and part of the group coordinating the efforts in Italy.

Scientific ties with Russia are being suspended throughout Europe and the United States. “All bilateral projects between Italy and Russia have been suspended, as well as events, conferences and other activities”, says Enrico Brugnoli, science attaché at the Italian embassy in Moscow.

Carrozza has suspended CNR’s missions in Russia and said the institution will not renew agreements with Russian institutions. Zoccoli says that directives from the Ministry of University and Research (MUR) have been unclear, but INFN will suspend any new agreement with Russia, all financial transaction, and any collaboration that may involve sensitive technologies such as quantum computing or aerospace research.

A source at MUR says it plans to strictly follow the strategy set by the European Commission’s research commissioner, Mariya Gabriel, which urged no further engagement with Russian entities and suspension of any payment to them.

The decision is likely to impact many active collaborations between Italian and Russian scholars, ranging from oceanographic research to agricultural genetics. Italy launched in 2021 its first call promoting joint research projects with Russia, and is part of several of the Russian “mega-grants” cooperation projects. All these projects are likely to be halted.

Russia is also a major partner of the Large Volume Detector (LVD) at the Gran Sasso laboratories, a 30-year experiment to detect neutrinos from supernovae that may now accelerate towards decommissioning. INFN is a partner of the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia.

Zoccoli says that while most scientists understand the need for sanctions, they are keen to keep connections alive. “INFN has worked with Russia since the Cold War,” he says. “Science should be a channel of communication and a bridge of peace”. He says individual scientists should not be forbidden to carry on collaborations and sign papers with colleagues in Russia. He also warns the pain will not be felt only by Russian science. Financial contribution from Russia to Italian laboratories will disappear, and key materials that come mostly from Russia, like germanium for neutrino detectors, will become rare.

“We support a temporary break among institutions, not among people”, says Antonio Loprieno, an Egyptologist and president of the European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities (ALLEA), that has expelled the Russian and Belarusian academies.