War and Science Don't Mix: Invasion Disrupts Georgian Research

By Melissa Lafsky | August 27, 2008 4:08 pm

warWhile Russian warships head to Abkhazia and arguments begin over who started it all, the conflict in Georgia has “paralyzed” scientific research in the country, according to Nature News. The director of the Georgia National Science Foundation said that 72 research projects, or 30 percent of all the foundation’s current work, have been halted because of the conflict.

In an example of terrible timing, the invasion hit smack in the middle of a new ramp-up in the country’s science-funding system, following a resurgence of young and skilled Georgian scientists. The GNSF had planned to double its national science budget next year, from $8 million to $16 million—which spells a lot of research and travel grants. But given the huge costs of post-war reconstruction (not to mention the hit Georgia’s economy will take from its loss of foreign investors), that money is now likely headed for recovery efforts.

Since we’re heaping on the bad news:

International conservation charity WWF estimates that 280 hectares of forest have been burnt in the conflict, and warns that key conservation areas are under threat, including a biodiversity research hotspot in western Georgia. “Since last night, Russian helicopters are dropping bombs in the Borjomi Gorge, in the area of Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park,” David Tarkhnishvili, a zoologist at the Ilia Chavchavadze State University in Tbilisi, wrote on 16 August in an e-mail to Italian colleagues. “Multiple fire patches are currently spreading over the area.”

As for international students and teams of non-national researchers currently working in Georgia, they’ve (wisely) flown the coop.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Science in Wartime
MORE ABOUT: russia, war

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