Research groups around the country have started picking apart the effects of the UK voting to leave the European Union.
Scientists for Britain, a group who aimed to “counter the political narrative of many pro-EU campaigners”, quickly thanked those who saw a positive future outside of the EU. They called upon the scientific community to reunite after a divisive campaign. Addressing the point that UK research is dependent on EU funding, Scientists for Britain stated that the sector needs to be more assertive about its benefits in order to gain more support from the government.
The group wants to mimic the “16 non-EU countries [which] collaborate on equal terms with their EU partners via associate agreements”. Israel, for example, despite not being in the EU – or even in Europe – is a greater net beneficiary of the European Research Area than even the UK is.
“EUROPEAN FUNDING IS EMBEDDED IN BRITISH SCIENCE”
European funding is embedded in British science. Nearly a fifth of science research grants awarded to Higher Education Institutes is provided by the EU. Digital Science’s research report on the effects of Brexit points out that certain scientific sectors will be a great risk of funding deficit. Evolutionary Biology receives 67% of its competitive research funding from EU sources. The figure is 62% for Nanotechnology. British businesses will also be considering their income – the EU provides nearly 80% of BT’s research funding, for example.
But funding isn’t the only area in which changes may be seen in the scientific research community following the Brexit vote. Prof Sir Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, president of the Royal Society, last week called on the government to reassure EU citizens over their residency in the UK. Around 30,000 scientists from the EU are employed by British universities. The French researcher Dr Noemie Bouhana came to the UK 18 years ago. She directs a Masters’ degree at UCL, and leads an EU-funded Countering Terrorism research group. Bouhana stated that “never in a million years” would she acquire UK funding for her international, interdisciplinary projects. Disappointed in the UK’s vote to leave, she said “I don’t want to live in a non-EU country.”
The government has stated that the referendum result has “no immediate impact” on areas such as student status, staff visas, and funding. An email from Vice-Chancellor Sir Steve Smith – who previously said that “leaving would be a disaster” – aimed to reassure University of Exeter students that there won’t be any immediate policy changes.
“HOWEVER THERE ARE FEARS THAT BRITISH PROJECTS ARE ALREADY BEING DISCRIMINATED AGAINST”
However, there are fears that British projects are already being discriminated against. Andrew Graham is co-founder of OC Robotics in Bristol. He cited the case of a recent EU consortium not inviting British organisations, which he described as “natural risk aversion”.
Brother of the key Leave campaigner Boris, the Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said “I look forward to working with the sector to ensure its voice is fully represented and that it continues to go from strength to strength.”