Half of young scientists leave Ukraine every year, and exactly the same number stays or comes back from Europe or US to work in the Motherland. Despite skeptical attitude towards science in our country, discoveries happen anyway.
According to the official statistics, there are 134 thousand 741 scientists in Ukraine, but it does not specify how many young scientists (under 36) are among them. "With the decrease of the total number of scientific workers in Ukraine, the number of specialists with doctor's and master's degrees does not drop, which means the intelligent element of scientific staff remains stable," ForUm learned from the State agency on science, innovations and IT.

However, this statement is questionable. The problem of "brain drain" appeared in Ukraine with declaration of independence. The young country did not have money to pay state salaries, pensions and scholarships, thus scientific research was not among the priorities.

Since then, half of young scientists keep leaving Ukraine, Oleksandr Skorohod, head of the Young Scientists Council of Ukraine, told ForUm. Oleksandr is 27 and he works in the Institute of molecular biology and genetics of Ukraine's Academy of Science, in the department of cell signaling systems.
According to him, young scientists have hard time surviving in Ukraine. "Financing and equipment supplying are dry. However, we apply for European grants and go abroad to do a part of work there. Thanks to this, we manage to maintain average level of living, as the salary of junior research assistant is little more than 2 thousand hryvnias. By Kyiv standards it is not enough. They also provide us with housing, but there are certain problems. Housing means old dormitories with three people in a room, not a separate apartment. As for the apartments, Paton's institute had a precedent - scientists received 10 apartments, but our institute is not the lucky one for the moment," Skorohod says.

The state tries to solve the problem this way or another, but it is obviously not enough. According to the official data, there are 1 thousand 735 young scientists registered in the State fund on housing for youth. However, only 433 scientists have got beneficial long-term mortgage loans.

Meanwhile, a mortgage or room in dormitory is an acceptable option for single people. Family people need separate apartment without 10-20 year-long mortgage. That's why Ukrainian young talents go abroad to earn some money. However, having earned necessary amount to buy an apartment in Kyiv they see no point in coming back and decide to stay abroad. "There is no motivation to come back, thus the majority stays there. But there are scientists who comeback nevertheless. Our chief returned from America, where he stayed for five years. Another staff member came back from Europe. Everyone has personal reasons, mostly not financial," the head of the Council believes. According to him, it is possible to find side jobs in Ukraine as well.

The problem is that these people do not sell potatoes. Scientific work requires full commitment, even fanaticism. It is easier to go abroad than to follow several jobs here. "Foreign institutes take our specialists with great pleasure. Six or seven specialists defended their theses last year and half of them left. People found jobs in Germany, Belgium, Canada. Our people are hardworking and every institute is glad to take them. Moreover, Ukrainians are not strict-minded in following manuals and can find ways to simplify or improve some methods. Foreigners like them for this.  Besides, education level of our people is not bad. We need to learn deeper highly specialized disciplines, but thanks to grants our scientists keep profile," the young scientist states.

The situation with grants is also complicated. If the matter concerns big grants, like from NATO for example, Ukrainian scientists have small chances to win them. At such high level, more advanced European labs have a priority. But if the matter concerns some small grants - three months or half a year, then European structures prefer to invite scientists from Eastern Europe.
However, it is worth mentioning that financial aspect is not always the decisive one. Sometimes it concerns higher matters.
Oleksandr Skorohod believes that a scientist first must be a patriot of science, not of a country. "A scientist first must be a patriot of science, as he realizes himself through science. At the same time, if there is a possibility he must remain the patriot of his country. For example, if having received the Nobel Prize he has an opportunity to held the development of science in his country he must do it. I would like to leave the country to gain some experience abroad, but not forever. I've been in many European countries and I cannot say I enjoyed staying there. The life here is more joyful. Germany is the worst. They are too rational, boring and sad. In Ukraine there is more fun," Skorohod says smiling.
The situation is aggravated by the fact that the profession "scientist" is hardly considered a prestigious one. The image of successful person, created by mass media, includes such attributes as Armani suit and a Mercedes, not the white robe and a bicycle to arrive to the Institute of molecular biology and genetics. However, Oleksandr does not think his life or career has failed. "There are no prestigious or non-prestigious professions. I believe that if your profession lets you to realize yourself and brings the feeling of completeness, it does not matter what this profession is. The most important thing is that your profession meets your vocation," he says.

Every pupil should be helped in finding his vocation, and school years are exactly the time when children try to understand themselves. "If I hadn't met a biology teacher, who was a big enthusiast of science I would have followed the path of history, where I could have applied my analytical abilities. But thanks to the biology teacher I discovered the science about life and I understood that in this sphere I could find answers. I wish the Junior Academy of Science worked more active," Skorohod says.

Oleksandr's parents advised the son against biology as future profession - young scientists get no money and no fame in Ukraine. "We do not have scientists in the family, but interest is everything for me. For me it is better to do something I like than to sell my soul and waste time for something I am not interested in. I consider myself a successful person. I write, do martial arts and discover more new possibilities realize myself in science," Oleksandr says. However, he admits that sometimes scientists are forced to leave science, and family is one of such reasons. Having children is expensive and people seek other ways to earn money. Family is also one of the reasons why there are not so many female professors in science. According to Skorohod, there are many girls among junior research assistants, but then they get married and have to take care of the family and children rather than science.

Among the sciences, physics is the most prestigious. Biology follows right behind, thanks to such promoted subjects as cloning and stem cells. Chemistry is considered the least prestigious, but there are physical chemistry and biochemistry, which are at the intersection of disciplines. "Speaking about biology, the most prestigious departments are molecular biology and biotechnologies, as they are being invested the most and have more Nobel Prize winners. Pharmaceutics and food industry are parts of these departments," the scientists say. The interesting thing is that liberal arts are not considered either more or less prestigious. They are just a different way of thinking and perception of the world.

Oleksandr dreams to win the Nobel Prize for universal remedy against cancer. "I often ask myself if it is possible to win the Nobel Prize living and working in Ukraine. I believe it is. The important thing is idea. If you have a good idea you will find means, here or aboard, to realize it. Western scientists win the Nobel Prize more often because they have an advantage of good equipment and the best professors. What we do for half a year they do in a month. If to increase investments and to organize the process properly, it would be possible to bring the science on upper level. I would like to get the Nobel Prize for inventing universal remedy against cancer. Studying the issue I have realized that it is not pure biology, but psychology as well. Cancer problem must be considered from various angles," future Nobel Prize winner believes.

Ukrainian scientists do make discoveries. "There are many discoveries nowadays, but only the most important get covered in media and are known to general public. The institute of physiology has made some interesting discoveries in the department of crystals. Molecular biology departments are doing researches, which may lead to some discoveries as well. But in general, Ukrainian scientists try to follow their western colleagues and have to research the sectors, not fully covered by others," Oleksandr says. According to him, despite the fact that biology is a fundamental science, it still has room for scientific discoveries.

Every young scientist sooner or later faces the question whether to leave for better life or to stay and be the patriot of the chosen science and country of birth. The decision is up to them. However, we wish that not only the state but Ukrainians themselves brought back the prestigious status of scientific work. In fact, engine of progress is not laziness, but curiosity. 


The total amount of financing for the scientific sphere of Ukraine in 2011 made UAH 9 591.3 million, including 3 887.4 million from the state budget.

In 2011 the number of scientific researches increased comparing to 2010, in particular by 317 works.

Among the total number of works, carried out in 2011, 12% were aimed at creation of new production (36% of the total - new types of equipment), 10% were aimed at new technologies (43% of the total - energy saving technologies ), 3 % - new materials, 1% - new species (plants, animals) and about 15% - new methods and theories. As a result, 36.6 thousand of works were implemented and used in production or other spheres.

Tetyana Hryhorieva, photos by Viktor Kovalchuk


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