Max Planck Society President Announces Aid Package for Ukraine Refugee Scientists

March 25, 2022
Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash

Original article:

“Since February 24, 2022, my life story has divided into two parts: the part when I thought that war would never knock on the doors of Odessa again, and the part when the days are filled with air raid sirens, explosions, bombers, curfews, fear, anger, tears, prayers, and fighting spirit.” With this description by a Max Planck alumna, Martin Stratmann opened his report in the Senate, in which he once again emphasized the clear positioning of the Max Planck Society (MPG) in favor of Ukraine. As an international scientific organization, however, the MPG also faces special challenges – for example, it has more than 400 employees from Ukraine and Russia alone in its ranks.

In the first weeks after the start of the war in Ukraine, the MPG mainly received requests for accommodation in the guest houses of the Max Planck Institutes. In consultation with its sponsors, the MPG decided very quickly and pragmatically to provide temporary accommodation, if necessary free of charge, in its guest houses to people with MPG connections who had fled Ukraine. An additional aid package has now been presented to the Senate. The MPG has set up a special fund of initially one million euros to finance follow-up contracts for temporarily employed Ukrainian staff at the Max Planck Institutes, as well as scholarships to accommodate further refugee guest and junior scientists from Ukraine. The MPIs can apply for these funds as needed. Already, a number of institutes have expanded their guest program with their own funds and are offering additional fellowships for the coming months. State Secretary Thomas Sattelberger of the BMBF thanked the Max Planck Society for supporting refugee scientists from Ukraine.

The President reported that the MPG had also already established contact with the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. He said that they are in exchange about a joint memorandum of understanding. Despite the current really difficult conditions, medium- and long-term support possibilities for science in Ukraine are being considered. With the establishment of partner groups for former Ukrainian postdocs, the MPG would have a proven instrument for building institutional networks. Furthermore, the MPG would be willing to get involved in the scientific and administrative implementation of a “Dioscuri”-like program in Ukraine.

Cooperation with state institutions in Russia and Belarus has been frozen until further notice. At the MPG, this particularly affects major cooperation projects with Russia such as FAIR, Icarus, eRosita, ZOTTO and ExoMars. Thomas Sattelberger announced a round table with representatives of the scientific community to discuss the further handling of these major international projects. In principle, the attitude prevailed in the Senate that individual contacts with Russian researchers should not be completely broken off.


Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash. Translation by DeepL.