Science cannot do without scientific publications. Acquiring and accumulating new knowledge is only the first step of the scientific process. The knowledge should be then summarised and communicated to the broad audience, and stored to be further processed, developed and applied. Scientific publications, especially in top-rated indexed editions, is the most common way to present results of scientific research. However, sometimes an important tool for integrating Ukrainian science in the international research environment turns into a threat to Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

Doctor of Juridical Science Andrii Chvaliuk tries to gain insight into this issue.

Let’s take Journal of Physics: Conference Series (ISSN: 1742-6588; E-ISSN: 1742-6596) that has been indexed in powerful abstract and citation database Scopus since 2005 in Physics and Astrophysics. The journal is published by IOP Publishing (or Institute of Physics Publishing) — the publishing company of the Institute of Physics (IoP), a UK-based learned society that has a worldwide membership of over 50,000 members. The main IOP Publishing headquarters is located in Bristol, England, and the North American headquarters is in Philadelphia, United States. Curiously, it has regional offices in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Without considering the matter deeply, there is nothing illegal in this fact. However, according to the organisers of the 5th All-Russian Scientific Conference ‘Thermophysics and Physical Hydrodynamics’ with the school for young scientists to be held for propaganda purposes in occupied Yalta on 13-20 September 2020, the best reports will be published in the journal mentioned above.

The Marine Hydrophysical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Sevastopol) — known as the Marine Hydrophysical Institute of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine before the occupation — is among the organisers of the conference. The institute used to be a powerful organisation, but its resources have been lost for Ukrainian science. The institute now works under auspices of the Russian Academy of Sciences and manufactures specific equipment for the aggressor country, but has no access to European markets because of sanctions. NATO does not buy free-floating buoys, known as ‘drifters’, to collect data in the Antarctic from the Institute anymore, but deputy director of the Marine Hydrophysical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences Anton Georga-Kopulos arrogantly says that this is ‘NATO’s loss only’.

Honorary worker of the aerospace sector of Ukraine Sergii Stanychnyi, Head of the Remote Research Department of the Institute, is rather optimistic and says ‘there are no sanctions in science’. According to him, they have faced sanctions only once, because a deputy editor of an English journal was ‘a Russophobe’. Stanychnyi adds that journals of the civilised world are usually pleased to publish their articles and constantly invite them to publications or to editorial boards. Sergii Stanychnyi and his group of the Marine Hydrophysical Institute have published around 30 articles in journals stored in Scopus and Web of Science since 2014.

Perhaps, one should rejoice in scientists’ efficiency, but there is one hitch: all members of the Institute (and other Crimean ‘universities’) state ‘Sevastopol, the Russian Federation’ in their articles. These articles are published and indexed in scientometric databases of the countries that previously condemned Russia’s illegal occupation and attempt to annex Crimea. This allows drawing a conclusion that existing sanctions are incomplete and inefficient. As for the lack of attention to Russia’s attempts to lobby ‘recognised reunification of Crimea’ among academic scientists of civilised countries, the first step of ‘Crimean’ sanctions indeed envisaged limiting cooperation, but that applied more to political and economic areas. Unofficially science is not included, although the responsibility not to recognise an attempt of Crimean annexation is still there. It would be logical to limit access of the aggressor country not only to the results of scientific achievements, but also to the whole process of increasing human knowledge. We should never forget that there are different uses of nuclear fission of uranium (peaceful or military). It is the same story here: you never know what new scientific knowledge the state with imperial ambitions can use as a weapon.

The fact that Journal of Physics: Conference Series is British makes the case even more problematic. The prestigious European journal with a long history would be hardly closed because of publishing articles, authors and lobbyists of which attempt to ‘place on record’ that Crimea belongs to the Russian Federation. Is such scenario possible for publishers registered on the occupied territory? We will try to figure it out.

Let’s take Physical Oceanography (E-ISSN: 1573-160X) in the subject area of Geophysics and Oceanography. The journal is published by the above-mentioned Marine Hydrophysical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Physical Oceanography is an English version of the Marine Hydrophysical Journal that the Marine Hydrophysical Institute of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine used to publish six times a year since 1985. The publication was included into the list of scientific journals of the Higher Attestation Commission of Ukraine.

In 2015, the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media registered the journal as a Russian scientific publication. In 2016, the journal was also registered in Russia as an online media. Doctor of Geographical Science and Director of the Marine Hydrophysical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences Sergey Konovalov is editor-in-chief of Physical Oceanography. He is a corresponding member of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine and at the same time of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Curiously, NASU has not excluded him from membership yet, saying there is no such procedure in the charter, allowing excluding a living person from the membership without prior application).

In 2018, Physical Oceanography was included in the list of journals indexed by Clarivate Analytics in Web of Science. The Journal has been indexed and referred in Emerging Sources Citation Index from the very first issue published in 2018. Starting from 2019, it has been also indexed in Scopus — the most respectful abstract and citation database. Publication of articles is free.

There are many more examples. Materials in Archaeology, History and Ethnography of Tauria (МАHЕТ) has been published annually since 1990.  It was founded by the Laboratory for the Study of Ethnic History at the Simferopol State University. Since 1992, it has been led by the Crimean Branch of A.Yu. Krymsky Institute of Oriental Studies of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine (Simferopol).  The journal was registered as a mass media, and was included in the list of scientific journals of the Higher Attestation Commission of Ukraine.

In 2015, the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media re-registered the journal (certificate ПІ №ФС77-61809 dd. 18 May 2015).  V.I. Vernadsky Crimean Federal University (Simferopol) set up as a successor to V.I. Vernadsky Taurida National University captured and ‘dissolved’ by the Russian occupation authorities is now listed as the promoter of the publication. Doctor of Historical Science and Director of the National Research Centre for Crimean History and Archaeology, professor Oleksandr Aibabin is editor-in-chief of МАHЕТ. In one of his interviews he said, ‘We are the first Crimean journal to be included in Web of Science. They have their head-quarters located in Philadelphia, but sanctions did not prevent them from including the Crimean journal in the international database’. His joy, however, was premature.

The website of Materials in Archaeology, History and Ethnography of Tauria (ISSN: 2413-189Х) says that in 2017 it was included into Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI) — a database of scientific journals, which is a part of the Web of Science Core Collection, but its indexation was then suspended.

There is a good reason for this — money. Unwillingness to lose it, to be precise. The Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine sent a letter to Clarivate that provides paid access to the Web of Science Core Collection demanding to exclude MAHET from the database because indexing journals published on the temporary occupied territories violates Ukrainian and international law. The company agreed, and the contract with the Ministry was prolonged. The Ministry also drafted a letter to Clarivate concerning Physical Oceanography. If the company refuses to meet requirements, the business terms will be reconsidered again. The positive trend in resolving this situation gives hope for the best.

Unfortunately, this is not yet the case with Dutch partners of Ukrainian science Elsevier. Elsevier’s abstract and citation database Scopus indexes Physical Oceanography published by the Marine Hydrophysical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences on the occupied territory. The Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine recently addressed Elsevier with a request to correct this violation, but the latter saw no violation in indexing the journal.

The Ministry then decided not to conclude a Scopus access agreement with Elsevier. The Ministry understands perfectly well that access to Scopus is an important tool to integrate Ukrainian science into the international research environment, but the threat to the territorial integrity is of higher importance. Silent acceptance of attempted annexation of Crimea in the scientometric database is unacceptable. The Ministry, however, is ready to consider possible cooperation with Elsevier, if Physical Oceanography is excluded from Scopus. Meanwhile, we can observe rather funny attempts of Elsevier to have a foot in both camps. Trying to have it both ways the company has programmed search results in author catalogue so that Ukraine is indicated next to Crimean higher education institutions. There are, however, mixed feelings about a record stating V.I. Vernadsky Crimean Federal University, Simferopol, Ukraine. 

Finally, it should be stressed that on 18 May 2015 the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media simultaneously re-registered Ukrainian journals, published in Crimea (Marine Hydrophysical Journal, Materials in Archaeology, History and Ethnography of Tauria, Tauria Medical and Biological Bulletin, Crimean Journal of Experimental and Clinical Medicine, Physiotherapy and Balneology Bulletin and many other old professional publications). Such uniform activity undoubtedly demonstrates that it was an order from above to re-register Ukrainian journals (without even bothering to change their names).

This focused activity of the occupying state clearly aims at spreading word combination ‘Crimea, Russia’ throughout a wide range of publications (including scientific). Authorities and institutions of civilised countries should respectively aim at preventing such attempts.