Academics raise concerns over prospect of Brexit, arguing membership is crucial for funding and allowing research to thrive
A British exit from the EU would be catastrophic for universities and scientific research, leading academics and scientists say, warning it would cost tens of millions of pounds in funding and leave prestigious UK institutions struggling to compete on the world stage.
Vice-chancellors warned of inevitable damage to centres of learning and teaching, arguing that EU membership was a critical factor in British universities’ global reputation for excellence.
Scientists from fields as diverse as neuroscience, astronomy, robotics, immunology, particle physics, sustainable agriculture, molecular biology, nanotechnology, cancer and photon therapy say a “Brexit” would lead to funding cuts, make recruiting and retaining top academic talent harder, and – crucially – cripple the cross-border collaboration on which research thrives.
Though it is far from clear what relationship Britain could maintain with the EU were it to leave, an overwhelming majority of academics who contacted the Guardian feared the worst. Many pointed to the example of Switzerland, a non-member whose EU research funding was slashed last year after it voted to restrict free movement of European citizens.
“Nothing good can come of it,” said Mike Galsworthy, a visiting researcher at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and director of a group of scientists – including Martin Rees, the astronomer royal; Tom Blundell, president of the Science Council; and Anne Glover, former chief scientific adviser to the president of the European commission – so alarmed at the prospect of a Brexit that they have launched a lobby group, Scientists for EU.
“The EU is one huge community of talent,” he said. “You can put together multinational, innovative, bespoke teams to tackle the really big global challenges. It’s not just the money; that could, maybe, be compensated. It’s that we’re on top of this massive engine, driving us all forward together … Hoping British science would do as well if we weren’t is like imagining Lionel Messi would be the player he was without the Barcelona first team playing all round him.”
Source: Jon Henley at the Guardian
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