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Russian government bars its scientists from international conferences

Scientific schools will also de-emphasize publication in international databases

RUSSIA-ARCHITECTURE
Russian government’s office building.
Photo credit should read KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images

Russian scientists will not participate in international conferences this year, the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation said via its Telegram channel. The decision comes as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has strained the relationships between Russian scientists and the international research community.

Minister Valery Falkov also said during a meeting with universities that scientific schools should no longer emphasize when publications are indexed through the two major international scientific databases, according to a recap sent through the Ministry’s Telegram channel.

Scientists aren’t banned from publishing research in international journals indexed in the two databases, Web of Science and Scopus, but will not lean on them as indicators of the quality of the work. The two databases are major sources of scientific information and have metrics that are widely used to evaluate the relative importance of scientific research.

The moves are a reversal of nearly a decade of efforts to make Russian research institutions more internationally competitive. The country actively recruited international scholars and pushed for Russian scientific organizations to vet their researchers’ work based on metrics in the Web of Science and Scopus. International rankings organizations can use data from those databases to develop their lists of the world’s best universities. Publications from Russian scientists in international journals went up between 2013 and 2016 after that push, according to one analysis.

Two weeks ago, the Russian government decided to stop rating scientific research more highly if it was published in Web of Science- and Scopus-indexed journals. The government also said it would no longer require research done with grants from government research programs to be published in indexed journals.

Clarivate, which runs Web of Science, had already closed its Russian office and said it would not evaluate new journals from Russia and Belarus (which supports Russia in its invasion of Ukraine).

Other research organizations have also cut ties with Russian research organizations. The European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, said that it would not collaborate with the Russian Federation. The International Congress of Mathematicians will be held virtually in July rather than in Russia as scheduled.

Many Ukrainian scientists have spent the past few weeks calling on journals to bar research from Russian scientists, but prominent journals like Nature have pushed back against a publishing boycott, saying that it does not want to block scholarly exchange. At least a handful of journals, including the Journal of Molecular Structure, have said they will not accept work from Russian institutions.

Ukrainian researchers have also said Russian scientists should not be invited to international conferences.