C4: Sanctions vs. science diplomacy: Where do universities stand?

Tobias Tamelander & Taina Tuori, University of Helsinki
Aiheet: 3. Tulevaisuus, Yleinen

Institutional autonomy and academic freedom are guiding principles for how universities work. This has allowed the academic sector to play an important role in maintaining communication and collaboration across political borders, guided by researchers’ shared interest in diverse scientific questions. Science has also been regarded as a means of diplomacy during historical crises such as the cold war and has at times been supported by national governments.   Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 led to a radical shift in international political and economic relations, and sanctions already imposed on Russia in 2014 were enforced and expanded. These have had immediate effects on ongoing academic collaborations, e.g. by stopping project payments to Russia. Furthermore, termination of science collaborations with Russia and Belarus have been self-imposed by European universities as a way of condemning the Russian aggression. Yet, the views on how universities best should handle science collaborations during the current situation differ. A complete isolation of Russian academics is not unproblematic. Several ongoing international science or technology endeavours with strong Russian participation, e.g. the International Space Station ISS and ITER nuclear fusion experiment, have outlived both political rulers and military conflicts where the participating countries have been involved. The way in which these projects are handled is crucial both for the careers of the participating researchers and for their potential to lead to scientific breakthroughs.  In this presentation we will review and discuss the following themes i) Science collaboration as a means of diplomacy in the past and present. ii) How sanctions work, where sanctions have been implemented, and their effect on academic work principles. At the time of writing, European universities and individual researchers must take into account sanctions on two levels. Universities are bound by the European Commission’s decision to suspend payments to Russian institutions involved in EU-funded research and innovation projects. In addition, national measures differ on how universities tackle other institutional collaboration with Russian universities and individual researchers in Russia.   iii) Different policies on science collaboration implemented in response to the Russian war on Ukraine and reactions among universities in Europe. At the time of writing, common measures include the suspension of ongoing institutional collaboration with Russian organisations and not engaging in new collaborations, while at the same time supporting current members of the academic community in resident in Europe regardless of their nationality.