Brexit – you have probably heard or read this term somewhere in this week. British people after Thursday’s referendum made a historic decision – to leave the European Union. Immediately after the decision, Pound fell 10% against the US dollar and the shockwaves of this decision was felt on most of the world’s markets. 52% of people, more than 17 million people in UK voted to leave the EU.
Apart from the major consequences that this has on trade, market, legislation, EU’s visa free travel in member states, politics and culture, Brexit has a major impact on science.
For more on the topic of Brexit in general, read here.
What worries the UK scientists?
Firstly, research funding. UK stands to lose around £1 billion of science funding a year after the official exit. Nothing will change immediately as the long process of hammering out the actual exit strategy and procedure will take a couple of years. But after that, the money will stop flowing.
Currently, the UK gets around 16% of their funding from EU, pro-“leave” politicians have promised to make up for the budget shortfall. But then labs would have to reapply for their grants through a system that may prioritize their work differently.
The UK contributed nearly £4.3bn for EU research projects from 2007 to 2013, but received nearly £7bn back over the same period, the committee states in a report published on Wednesday. The £2.7bn excess was equivalent to more than £300m in research funds a year.
Academics who gave evidence to the peers stressed the importance of the EU for collaborative projects and the free movement of researchers. The concerns echo those raised in March by more than 150 members of the Royal Society who warned that leaving the EU could hamper research in Britain, because so many young scientists were recruited from Europe. Among them was Stephen Hawking who said Brexit would be “a disaster for UK science.”
In the EU, citizens of member states are free to travel to other members of EU without visas, therefore the borders are porous or open. UK’s exit will mean that British scientists will no longer be able to travel to EU openly.
Open EU borders have also helped accelerate collaboration and innovation on big international projects like the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the particle accelerator that is revealing the fabric of the universe, which is based in Switzerland and France that employs more than 2000 people from 21 EU countries. Brexit will hamper multinational science collaborations like LHC.
UK labs get about 15% of its staff from other EU nations. Brexit puts British scientists in isolation. “British scientists will have to work hard in the future to counter the isolationism of Brexit if our science is to continue to thrive,” Paul Nurse, the head of the Francis Crick Institute in London, said.
One of the argument for Brexit, is people are tired of globalisation and globalist agendas. There has been a surge of Nationalism in UK and Anti-globalism. What people do not see is, for science, globalisation is a boon because it promotes international collaboration and cooperation for research and innovation which are crucial for humanity’s progress. The impact of Brexit on science could be disastrous and this could really slow down humanity’s progress by years. Anything that slows down research is detrimental to humanity’s growth.
Written by, Aditya Karmarkar.