More than 20 million people have had to leave their home countries; about 40 million more are displaced within their borders.
Among them are thousands of scientists and researchers, many fleeing with little more than a USB flash drive or the password to a Dropbox account containing what they could salvage of their life’s work.
“If we lose them, we lose their impact, too, what they could do for economies and for societies.” “I Feel Like a Real Scientist Again” Nedal Said was one such researcher working to make a positive impact in his home country of Syria.
At a microbiology lab in Aleppo that monitored water pollution, he was researching new methods of drinking water disinfection.
“These researchers are important as critical voices in their home countries and for contributing to development and social well-being, to scientific and economic progress,” says Georg Scholl of Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung, a foundation that is funding dozens of displaced researchers on two-year fellowships at German universities and research institutions through its Philipp Schwartz Initiative.
“They are not just refugees in need, but researchers who are good at what they do,” Scholl says.
Some have formally sought asylum in the countries where they are now working or studying, while others hope their academic placements abroad will be a temporary respite.
Said worked a year as a cashier in a produce market, but it provided hardly enough money to live on, much less any professional satisfaction.
After months of idleness and fear, Dauqan got a fellowship as a visiting scholar at University Kebangsaan Malaysia, where she had done her postgraduate studies. “Our airport in Ta‘izz was closed due to the fighting.