‘Brexit big blow to British science’

London, June 25 (IANS) Senior British scientists have expressed dismay at the nation’s decision to exit the European Union (EU), which provides them nearly $! million a year for research.

The leave vote prompted immediate concerns for the future of staff and students from non-UK member states already at work in Britain, and the impact the result could have on the ability of leading institutions to attract the best overseas talent to the country, The Guardian reported on Friday.

The UK also relies heavily on researchers from EU member states. A report from the Royal Society found that more than 31,000 people, making up 16 per cent of Britain’s university researchers are drawn from non-UK EU countries.

Paul Boyle, vice-chancellor of Leicester University, called the “shocking result” a “dark day for UK science” and called for every effort to be made to counter any impression that Britain had become less welcoming to international researchers.

He called on the science community to start campaigning immediately to protect the science budget.

A May report from the UK data group, Digital Science, stressed that scientific research in Britain was propped up by EU funding to a “concerning level”, and in evidence to a Lords committee, the pro-European science minister, Jo Johnson, made clear there was no guarantee that a post-Brexit government would be willing or able to make up any shortfall if the EU funds collapsed.

“As a community we’re going to need a strong voice to ensure that a key part of the UK national economy – science and high tech – really has a long term future here,” said Ewan Birney, co-director of the European Bioinformatics Institute in Cambridge.

“This is a big blow for the hiring of talented people across the EU,” Birney said.

Nobel laureate Paul Nurse said Britain’s scientists would have to work hard to counter the isolationism of Brexit if UK science was to continue to prosper.

“This is a poor outcome for British science and so is bad for Britain,” he said, adding “Science thrives on the permeability of ideas and people, and flourishes in environments that pool intelligence, minimises barriers and are open to free exchange and collaboration.”

–IANS

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