Russian universities declare that they are producing patriots for the service of the motherland.  Still, the disconnection worries Finnish researchers.

The study is difficult to conduct, the situation is even worse than in the Soviet Union, the researcher says. The Russian academic community, on the other hand, declares that it is producing “patriots for the service of the motherland”.

Ukraine war, climate change research and reindeer herders. Three things you wouldn’t immediately think of being related. But it is different.

After Russia invaded Ukraine at the end of February, the Western reaction was swift and consistent.

Sanctions began to be imposed on Russia, which began with international cooperation bodies and quickly spread to trade and even scientific research.

Osana The common front of the European Union the Ministry of Education and Culture In March, Finland will freeze university and science policy co-operation with Russia and Belarus.

At the same time, it recommended that universities, polytechnics and other research institutes freeze current cooperation between organizations. Similarly, the planning of new projects with Russian and Belarusian partners should be suspended.

In practice this means that no new projects will be launched with Russian or Belarusian organizations and no funding will be provided for the mobility of researchers between countries.

Russia has been closed to several international cooperation projects, such as the International Accelerator Laboratory for Nuclear Physics (FAIR) and the European Synchrotron Radiation Research Institute (ESRF).

Because It is recommended to avoid traveling to Russia and the flow of money is largely cut off, and the implementation of individual projects also becomes difficult or even impossible.

Descriptive an example is provided by the northern reindeer herders mentioned at the beginning, who play an important role in climate change research in the region.

The Arctic Institute of the University of Lapland has used reindeer herders as assistants. In return for compensation, they share their perceptions of changes in the environment.

“Now this cooperation has also been suspended. We have no way of compensating them, ”says the director of the Arctic Center Johanna Ikävalko.

Russia is a huge country, covering about 11 percent of the world’s land area.

A particularly large part of it is in the north. Russia accounts for more than half of the Arctic land area.

“Russia is the Arctic and the Arctic is Russia,” the country’s representative once summed up at the Arctic Council meeting.

“It’s an exaggeration, but not much,” Ikävalko says.

“Now we are working to rebuild the research infrastructure without Russia. But it is a kind of crutch solution. ”

“So far, all models of Siberian warming have proved too optimistic.”

Lock was struck directly by a research professor at the University of Lapland Bruce Forbesin to work. He is leading an international charter project whose group was to be directed to Russia for research in the spring.

“We have had a long break from field work because of the corona. Now we would have finally reached Bovankovo ​​in northwestern Siberia. ”

Forbes research focuses on the progress and effects of climate change in the Arctic.

“We need continuous measurements so we can update our models. So far, all models of Siberian warming have proved too optimistic. ”

Russia has begun to take climate change research seriously, Forbes says.

“For example, between 2013 and 2014, tens of thousands of reindeer starved to death as icy snow buried under food. In 2020, a record 38-degree temperature was measured in the Siberian Arctic. This leaves no room for locals to doubt that the change will be real and will require action. ”

cooperation however, the study seems to come to a standstill at a critical moment.

The Forbes group still has a researcher hired by the University of Hamburg in Russia, but due to sanctions, he cannot be sent to work in the field.

“It is already difficult to arrange a trip. And it is not clear whether we would even have the right to use the information he collects. ”

According to Forbes, the situation is even worse than in Soviet times.

“I first visited the Soviet Union in the 1991s to do heat drilling in the soil. Under the current restrictions, this would not be possible. “

Something how many research gaps can be filled with satellites. satellite observations are obtained almost normally from Russian territory, says the director Jyri Heilimo Arctic Space Center of the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

“A few land stations in Russia have been decommissioned. This mainly affects the weather forecasts, as some satellites may experience delays of a few hours. ”

Instead, for example, the data needed to monitor climate change on greenhouse gas emissions can also be monitored by satellite, as can the extent of sea ice. Today, the accuracy of satellites is even sufficient to distinguish individual sources of emissions.

Climate change in addition to research, much other co-operation has taken place with Russia.

According to the Academy of Finland, 62 projects involving co-operation with Russia have received funding through its main funding in 2017–2021. This means around € 18-25 million. The recipient of the money is always a Finnish organization or researcher.

If the implementation of existing projects proves impossible, the funding should be reviewed. So far, the Academy of Finland has not heard a significant amount about the problems, says a leading science expert Mikko Ylikangas. which is responsible for the Academy of Finland’s co-operation with Russia.

“I think we’ll know more about the difficulties this fall.”

According to Ylikangas, there have been co-operation projects from side to side. In addition to research on climate change, emphasis will be placed on environmental sciences, physics, sociology and the humanities.

The Arctic Center has also had an extensive anthropological project on the effects of climate change on Arctic communities. Now that too has been suspended.

“I have written quite a lot about Vladimir Putin and the war in Ukraine in public, and I don’t want to test whether it would lead to action.”

One A researcher in Fenno-Ugric studies is a humanist researcher connected to Russia Janne Saarikiviwho is a docent at the University of Helsinki and a professor at the University of Tromsø.

In a normal year, Saarikivi visits Russia about five times a year for seminars and research trips. Now leaving is not tempting.

“A conference would be held in Yekaterinburg this year, which is the best in the world for my own research. I was thinking about leaving, but in the end I decided to skip it. I have written Vladimir Putinista and the war in Ukraine quite a lot in public, and I don’t want to test whether it would lead to action, ”says Saarikivi.

Fennougristics about half of the researchers are Russian. Saarikivi expects the future of the entire field of science to become difficult if the current situation remains permanent.

“For example, there would be a big conference in Vienna this year, with about 40 percent of the researchers attending, typically from Russia,” Saarikivi says.

“Many of them will have to skip the conference this year. The real reason is the interest rate restrictions – the Russian Sputnik vaccine is not counted as protection – but the conference has also outlined that no participant should represent a pro-war organization. ”

“Although the problems of linguistics may seem small alongside climate change, this research is also in a hurry,” Saarikivi points out.

“There are small languages ​​and communities that should be documented now because it won’t be possible soon. If we think that sanctions would stop co-operation for at least ten years, a lot of things will certainly be lost. ”

“I’m not sure who their exclusion will serve.”

Finns the Human Rights Committee of the Academies of Sciences March recommendationin which it supports the Ministry of Education and Culture’s recommendation not to cooperate.

However, the Committee warns against taking rigid decisions that could have unpredictable consequences.

“The nationality or place of residence of an individual researcher should not be the sole reason for terminating a collaboration,” the recommendation states.

Saarikivi also considers the significance of the boycott for individual researchers.

“Scientists are not athletes who represent their country. Many are critical of Putin. I’m not sure who their exclusion will be. “

On the other hand, more than 8,000 Russian scientists have also signed a declaration against the war.

Also Forbes shares the same concern. However, he immediately recalls the Russian Rectors’ Association declaration since the beginning of the warin which the Russian academic community expressed support for the attack.

The signatories of the declaration were 300 leading people from Russian universities. The declaration stated that the main goal of Russian universities is to educate patriots to serve the motherland.

“Cooperation would be much easier without that declaration,” Forbes says.

Saarikivi, on the other hand, thinks about the motivation of the principals to sign the declaration.

“It’s hard to say if they really think about it, or if the idea is just to protect the freedom of researchers within universities. On the other hand, there are also more than 8,000 Russian researchers signed a declaration against the war. Almost all of my closest colleagues are involved. ”

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