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No time to waste in Ukraine's road to boost science

Ukraine has put in place a wide-ranging legal framework to govern the development of its science and innovation system, but must move from theory to action, and faces tough implementation challenges, according to an international Peer Review carried out in the second half of 2016.

The review was led by Hans Chang, a Dutch science policy advisor and former director-general of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Chang says that the exercise helped crystallise the task that Ukraine faces in modernising its science and innovation system. It also made plain to the reviewers what the scale of that task is. “The country is in a war; the country is in an economic crisis; their banks are in trouble,” Chang says. So the earlier Ukraine starts the work of implementing its new legal framework the better.

Chang is realistic about the difficult road ahead for science and innovation. But he also acknowledges that the Peer Review received support from the highest levels, including Ukraine education and science minister Liliia Hrynevych. “There is the will,” Chang says. “That's clear: they want change and improvement.”

“We want to see reform and improvement in our research and innovation system, as reflected in the new law on scientific and technical activity,” said Ms Hrynevych, the education and science minister, “for this reason, we asked for PSF support and recommendations that would improve implementation and impacts.”

An ambitious reform agenda

Ukraine codified its ambitions for its science and innovation system in the Law on Scientific and Technical Activity, finalised at the start of 2016. Among other things, the law created a National Board on the Development of Science and Technology and a National Research Foundation, and set a target for public expenditure on research.

In implementing the law, the period up to 2020 will be crucial. The reviewers found that Ukraine should seek increased financial backing for the reform process from national, international, EU and private sources, and made seven top-line recommendations to Ukraine's government to ensure implementation of the new research framework.

In terms of practical steps towards implementation, the new National Board would play a fundamental role, according to the review report. It should act as a “champion” of Ukraine's science and innovation reform efforts, and should have on its agenda for the next two years a short list of key priorities to “radically re-orient” the science system. Chang says that it should be “an organisation run by scientists for scientists.”

The reviewers are candid about the scale of Ukraine's challenge in reforming its science system. Ukraine is now working on the roadmap for implementation of the Peer Review’s recommendations, considered crucial to the success of the reforms by the reviewers.

“We are glad that Ukraine’s associate status to Horizon 2020 provides for this excellent possibility to get the highly qualified expertise from the European Commission and the Member States”, said Ms Hrynevych.

The Peer Review was completed under the European Union's Horizon 2020 Policy Support Facility (PSF). To date, PSF Peer Reviews have been carried out for Bulgaria, Hungary, Moldova and Ukraine, and one for Poland is underway. The Ukrainian review started in May 2016 and delivered its recommendations in December.

For further information

Information on reports and activities of the Peer Review of the Ukrainian Research and Innovation System is available at:
https://rio.jrc.ec.europa.eu/en/policy-support-facility/peer-review-ukrainian-research-and-innovation-system

An article (PDF, 200KB) summarising the Peer Review of the Ukrainian Research and Innovation System is available at: https://rio.jrc.ec.europa.eu/sites/default/files/report/Summary_Article_Peer_Review_Ukraine_FINAL_0.pdf 

The Final Report (PDF, 1.7MB) of the Peer Review of the Ukrainian Research and Innovation System is available at: https://rio.jrc.ec.europa.eu/sites/default/files/report/KI%20AX%2016%20008%20EN%20N_UKR_0.pdf