International Sanctions and Global Science

International sanctions are widely used as a means of applying pressure on nation states to alter the strategic decisions. They take a variety of forms, including travel bans, asset freezes, arms embargoes, capital restraints, foreign aid reductions, or trade restrictions.

While this policy instrument is heavily scrutinized within security, development and financial communities, it is rarely explicitly considered in relation to academia and research capacity building.  There is little discussion about the wide-ranging impact that these sanctions may have on the academic capacity and scientific infrastructures of the targeted country.  In particular, little is known about how sanctions affect access to general-purpose research equipment, reagents, online scientific data, and research software. A sustained lack of access to international collaborations and exchanges has both immediate as well as long-term implications by damaging the skill basis within academia in these countries.

Overlooking the impact of international sanctions on the development of national research agendas and tertiary education has serious implications for the attainment of SDGs, particularly on educational attainment, health and well-being.  It also undermines the ability to benefit equitable from transformations in the global science system, such as the open data/open science movements. As sanctions place hidden barriers on free and open exchange of data online, a failure to address these limitations will exacerbate  existing inequalities and marginalizations within global science. 

A key challenge to raising such concerns is lack of evidence.  This project aims to provide such evidence by conducting surveys in four DAC countries currently subject to sustained economic sanctions, namely Zimbabwe, Iran, Myanmar and Venezuela.  Together with recently collected data in Sudan, this will form the basis for future discussion and research on sanctions and academic development.

This research is funded by GCRF Research England Fund. For more information please contact or