November 10 is annually celebrated as World Science Day. For countries, as well as for the scientists, this is the day when “the clock is checked”. Unfortunately, in Ukraine, this clock is not only lagging behind, but can even go into reverse, Serhiy Lovochkin, deputy Chair of the Opposition Bloc faction wrote in the blog for the “Korrespondent”.

The world is at the turn of a new technological leap – biotechnology, artificial intelligence, new energy sources and innovative technical solutions are gradually becoming the new norm. The main force of this movement is science. In the process, Ukraine takes the place of an observer, rather than a participant: the proportion of the volume of scientific and technical work performed in the country’s GDP has almost halved since 2013, when it was 0.8%, to 0.45% in 2017.

What does this dynamic look like in Europe? According to the data of 2016, the share of expenditure on research and development in EU countries’ GDP averaged 2.8%. Above the average, this indicator was in Sweden - 3.25%, Austria - 3.09%, Germany - 2.94%, Denmark - 2.87%, Finland - 2.75%, Belgium - 2.49%, France - 2.25%; below the average this indicator was in Macedonia, Latvia, Romania, Cyprus and Malta - from 0.43% to 0.61%.

The down staircase

The data show that Ukraine is led “Up the Down Staircase”. A blow was struck to the institutional basis of Ukrainian science: the funding of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine in 2017 was reduced by 9.38% compared to 2013, and in fact almost quadrupled from $ 395 million to $ 109 million. The situation with the National Academy of Medical Sciences is even worse, the allocation of actual funds for which decreased by more than 17 times – instead of $ 308.6 million in 2013, it received only $ 18 million in 2017.

Scientists are leaving the country, there are no real state programs to support young specialists, and scientific institutions are aging without investments in reconstruction and modernization.

The “brain drain” has become catastrophic – according to the State Statistics Service, in 2014, 42 candidates and 7 doctors of science left the country. It is characteristic that since 2015, the outflow of scientific personnel abroad has not been recorded at all, but the situation continues to deteriorate: in 2015–2016, according to the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, more than 15% of employees left it.

Since the schoolyard, talented children want to leave the country, and they are happy to be taken by universities in Poland, Germany, etc. In particular, according to the research of the Polish Institute of Public Affairs, the number of Ukrainian students has increased from 10 to 35 thousand over the past three years. Moreover, only 9% are going to return to Ukraine after receiving a diploma.

The choice between past and future

Ukrainians start to get used to the fact that “big science” and significant technological breakthroughs occur exclusively abroad. This is how an inferiority complex is created, which is being compensated with words about successes “from the past”. For example, the Institute of National Memory is funded in amounts that exceed the funding of five academic institutions.

Why is this happening?

The problem is not the lack of demand for science – there are enough high-tech industries in the country that need both scientifically trained personnel and modern scientific developments. Not to mention the production and technology that can be created through new discoveries.

All this is of little interest to the current authorities. Ukraine still occupies a leading position in the sphere of copyright infringement and has not built a system for their effective protection. Therefore, Ukrainians prefer to register their inventions abroad. They are also looking for funding for their projects, and access to global academic databases, laboratories and partnerships. Without financing science, our country simultaneously loses its investment in education provided to those who have left, and misses the benefits of the results of their future developments.

Without changing the situation, Ukraine is doomed to lag, deindustrialization and complete dependence on foreign technologies (quite likely, invented by scientists who left Ukraine).

Chance 2019

The revival of Ukrainian science is impossible without political will, which the current authorities do not have.

It is necessary to increase the financing of domestic science. Expenditures on research and development, funding for basic science should be raised from at least 0.5% to 3% of GDP, introduce a system of grants and create opportunities for participation in international projects. This will give the motivation of Ukrainian scientists to live, work and implement their projects in Ukraine.

Implementing a public-private partnership in the scientific field, reviving the relationship between science and production, ensuring the practical implementation of developments of Ukrainian scientists and creating opportunities for the emergence of research and production clusters with enterprises, research institutes and universities, we will demonstrate the possibility of self-realization and the prestige of the profession to scientists, especially the younger generation.

Having secured intellectual property, we actually recognize the value of the results of the work of innovators.

The revival of Ukrainian science is not a utopia, but a real opportunity. It is only important that in 2019, Ukraine will not miss its chance.