War in Ukraine hits scientific cooperation with Russia

American scientists ask “not to abandon” their Russian colleagues for the sake of global research .


A month ago “everything fell apart” for Boris, a neuroscience researcher in Paris. Like thousands of his peers, he saw his research projects collapse after cooperation with Russia was suspended  over its invasion of Ukraine .

In the days following the invasion, several world-renowned scientific institutions suspended their cooperation with Russia .

Among them, the European Space Agency ( ESA ) , the CNRS (the largest French research organization), the CERN (European organization for nuclear research) or even the MIT (prestigious American institute).

The decision to cut ties dealt a serious blow to science diplomacy, particularly in the aerospace sector , where Western powers had forged close ties with Russia since the end of the Cold War.

“The decision was painful,” Josef Aschbacher, director of ESA , whose 22 member states had just agreed to break with their Russian counterparts from Roscosmos , said last week .

science without borders

One of the first victims of the suspension of cooperation with Russia was the ExoMars mission , which was due to take off this year from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan with the help of a Russian launcher and landing structure.

A bitter fact for thousands of European and Russian scientists who had been working on the project for years, key to searching for extraterrestrial life.

The suspension of the mission was also a blow to an open global community, driven by an ideal of science without borders, and just reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Along the same lines, Boris, a researcher at the National Institute for Research in Health and Medicine in France, founded a center for cognitive science in Moscow.

His students traveled to different laboratories in Europe, and he, who prefers not to give his last name, went to Russia to give lectures.

“It was a unique cross-border model in the field of neuroscience,” explains this American of Soviet origin in his 50s who lives in France.