The gap we hope to close
As it stands, programmes to support displaced scientists and PhD students are few and fragmented, with great inconsistency between hosting countries. Until now, there has been no consistent or unified global effort to identify the affected scientists and to assess their skills and expertise — there are no platforms where they can come together for peer support, for example — and research on these issues is currently scant.
The number of refugee and displaced scientists is unknown, but probably in the thousands and possibly exceeding 10,000. And this number is expected to increase should disruptive problems such as civil conflict and climate change continue to worsen. This initiative is designed to help the science and policy communities prepare — nationally, regionally and internationally — to mitigate the struggles these scientists endure, and ensure that they’re able to continue to pursue their research and build their expertise. This is also important because that expertise, in time, will be important for rebuilding their home countries.
The organisations behind the campaign
The initiative is a collaboration between TWAS, the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP) and the International Science Council (ISC), under the umbrella of Science International, and is bringing together existing organisations that provide assistance to affected scientists to exchange ideas and best practices. It will also identify gaps in ways to help build a network of like-minded organisations interested in responding to the challenges they face, including by raising awareness of the issue among governments, international agencies and the broader scientific community.
Science International is a series of regular meetings that convene ISC, IAP and TWAS. Together, they represent more than 250 national and regional science academies, scientific unions and other organizations, with individual members at the highest levels of research, policy and education.
To guide this initiative, the collaboration hired Erin Buisse Consulting, a firm with experience working with refugees, running awareness campaigns, and securing funds for the integration of refugees into national education systems.
The effort is financially supported by funding from the Swedish International Development and Cooperation Agency (Sida), through a contribution to TWAS.