Funding agency freezes money for UK researchers collaborating with colleagues in Russia after Ukraine invasion
The national research funder, UK Research and Innovation, has suspended all grant disbursements for projects involving Russian partners, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The move was first reported on March 13 by the Financial Times, which said “nearly 50 grants for projects at UK universities, worth a total of tens of millions of pounds” were affected.
The revelation came after UKRI’s parent department, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, announced a “rapid review” of its science and innovation links with Russia, in the part of a broader set of economic sanctions against the country.
Among those affected by the UKRI decision is Adrian Muxworthy, professor of terrestrial and planetary magnetism at Imperial College London, and principal investigator of a joint project on magnetic fields in ancient rocks with the researcher of the Russian Academy of Sciences Valera Shcherbakov.
On March 7, Muxworthy said he had been told by UKRI that he was “suspending all grant payments with potential Russian partners”, including his £656,752 grant.
“Of course, it’s really boring for my research project, but compared to what’s happening in Ukraine, it’s not important,” he told Research Professional News.
Another concerned researcher from a Russell Group university, who did not wish to be identified, told Research Professional News that UKRI’s decision would “likely mean that our projects will all stop before publication” and that ” there are no contingency plans”.
“At this time,” they added, “we all hope that the catastrophe that has befallen the Ukrainian people can be stopped as soon as possible. This is the most important thing. Then we can start picking up the pieces.
They added that the sanctions imposed by UKRI and other organizations were “completely understandable”.
But they feared the sanctions would mean Russian scientists would be “ostracized by all their international colleagues and banned from publishing in international journals”.
A UKRI spokesperson said the funder “condemns in the strongest terms the Russian government’s invasion of Ukraine”.
“At this time, and in line with the UK government, UKRI is reviewing its active research projects with Russian partners,” they said. “We are in close contact with colleagues across government to ensure we are taking the most appropriate action.
“This is a very sensitive time, not least because we need to support and protect individuals, and we will share further information as soon as possible.
“Our hearts go out to all those affected by the Russian government’s invasion of Ukraine, including colleagues and academic partners who may be directly or indirectly affected and who need our compassion, support , our understanding and our respect.”
A spokesperson for the Russell Group of research-intensive universities said: ‘The events of the past few weeks have been deeply disturbing for all involved and our thoughts are with the people of Ukraine. Since the start of the invasion, our members have prioritized supporting staff and students in the UK or overseas who have been affected, and they will continue to do so for as long as necessary.
“Russell Group universities have reviewed any collaborations or other ties they may have had with Russia and are taking appropriate action.”