NOS Nieuws•vandaag, 17:50
From which Bosma
From which Bosma
Since the war in Ukraine, thirteen Ukrainian scientists have been accommodated at Dutch universities. This is not much compared to countries such as Poland and Germany.
The Young Academy, a platform of young researchers within the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, conducted research into the reception of refugee scientists. The small number coming to the Netherlands is no coincidence, according to Marie-José van Tol, chair of De Jonge Akademie. “The universities are willing to offer help, but at the moment things are stalling.”
For other countries it is not even known how many refugee scientists have been taken in by Dutch universities. Requests are not received centrally. “We already wanted to do this research before the war in Ukraine,” says Van Tol. “The war brought urgency, but this problem has been with scientists from other countries for a long time. Scientists are among the first to be threatened by oppressive regimes.”
Fear of fines
The Young Academy has established that Dutch universities can do little for fleeing scientists. Universities can offer scientists a physical workplace so that they can continue their research, but researchers also need money for a living.
Universities fear fines from the Tax and Customs Administration and Labor Inspectorate if they financially support a scientist. The Tax and Customs Administration sees this as a (fictitious) employment contract and the researcher should in that case be given a contract in accordance with the collective labor agreement. A university can be fined or have to pay payroll tax later if a scientist does not have a contract.
But refugee scientists don’t get a contract just like that. To do so, they have to go through a normal application procedure and compete with other scientists. “The CV and/or language skills are often not suitable for this, or not competitive enough. In that case, they are not eligible for that vacancy,” explains Van Tol.
This is recognized by Ilse Schenk, HR policy advisor for internationalization at Erasmus University in Rotterdam. “We cannot just give a contract. The competition for a contract is very strong, and we cannot favor scientists who flee here over other researchers who apply for a position.”
Stay active in science
The Young Academy says it would be good if all scientists who had to flee could continue their scientific careers. “In this way, the scientific structure in their country remains intact when it is safe to return. That is also in our interest,” says Van Tol.
The Netherlands can take an example from countries in the rest of Europe such as Germany and Poland, says De Jonge Akademie. “Many scientists from Ukraine went to Poland and appropriate help was immediately sought and offered, taking into account the family situation. We can learn from that.”
The Young Academy advocates appointing a scholarship provider and adjusting the tax rules. Universities or a grant-providing body then no longer have to fear fines or additional assessments if they support a researcher financially. In addition, there should be a fund that gives scientists a grant in the short term. The UAF, a foundation for refugee scientists and students, gave these kinds of grants until 2020, but has stopped doing so because this organization also feared the financial risks.
“We call on the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science to enter into discussions with the Ministry of Finance,” says Van Tol. The ministry said in a response that it would look at the tax obstacles identified in the report. “We will discuss this with employers, the Ministry of Finance and other relevant parties.”
“It’s not about very large numbers of scientists who come here,” says Schenk. According to her, a tailor-made solution is needed. “We would like to see an external source for temporary funding. Then we can offer a researcher a place and in the meantime apply for a grant, so that we can eventually offer a contract.”
In addition to adjusting the tax rules, De Jonge Akademie is proposing a central registration point. In this way, scientists can better be linked to a university that suits their research. “With this report, we want to indicate that a structural organization must be set up to accommodate scientists who have to flee,” says Van Tol.
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