Via The Guardian, an opinion piece by Will Hutton: Why Brexit may be a deadly experiment for science. Excerpt:
Public scientific research is one of Britain’s great unsung industries. Its turnover is around £8bn, it employs some 100,000 researchers and it leads the world. After the US, we produce more cited research papers than anyone else.
We’re not as good as we should be in translating all that effort into companies, products and services. But without its stimulus, our moderate levels of private business research, itself employing another 150,000 researchers, would be even lower. Nonetheless, as a self-standing industry, public scientific research is one of our most competitive and a top exporter.
Or it was. It is one of the many areas of our economic life likely to take an irreparable hit as Britain leaves the EU. Britain’s leadership position was built on the excellence of its science, capacity to attract talent and the extraordinary ability of its scientists to build international networks bidding for EU research money. The EU is spending £70bn on scientific research in its Horizon 2020 programme: up until 23 June, more of it was being allocated to British-led partnerships than any other member state.
Three-quarters of all the increase in scientific funding to universities has come from the EU over the last few years. Just as importantly, science has long since gone international, whatever Ukip and Tory Brexiters may think; the world’s biggest research base and generator of science is the EU: 64% of British scientific research is built on international collaborations, underpinned by EU funding, now contributing nearly one in five research pounds spent in British universities.
Researchers from Europe, joining these collaborations, could live in Britain freely. Unless Boris Johnson and lead Brexit negotiator David Davis stop babbling about possible trade deals years hence outside the EU and become unexpectedly non-ideological and nimble – and Theresa May and home secretary, Amber Rudd, very pragmatic about immigration – British science is about to be very badly hurt.
Mike Galsworthy, director of Scientists for EU, already reports 378 responses to his Brexit impact monitoring database . Over a quarter have encountered problems with being part of consortiums bidding for intensely competitive Horizon 2020 funding. Everyone fears the risks in a few years of having non-EU Britain as a partner.
Worse still are reports of xenophobia cited by EU research scientists in their daily life in buses, trains, shops and from neighbours. Word is spreading fast: don’t come to Britain. From being at the heart of European scientific research, Britain is going to the margins, with incalculable consequences for our knowledge base, the standing of our universities and research jobs.