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Questions of the Month – After the Referendum

Posted by , on 30 June 2016

On the 23rd of June the United Kingdom held a referendum on whether to remain a member of the European Union or to leave. Prior to the vote, Nature reported that 83% of nearly 2000 polled scientists favoured remaining, Picture4and letters from Royal Society members and Nobel Prize winners urged the public to vote to remain in the interests of British research. The result was called early on Friday morning: the UK had voted to leave the EU, by 51.9% to 48.1% (around 17 million to 16 million voters). We’re now faced with the question of what this might mean for UK science, and, given how interconnected science is, also how it might influence science in the EU and the rest of the world.

 

So we’ve got two Questions of the Month for June, one personal and one more global:

 

What does the Referendum result mean for you, scientifically and career-wise?

 

Are there practical steps we as a community can do to ensure a bright future for UK and EU science?

 

We’re hoping to hear from as broad a selection of people as possible: UK and EU nationals working here in the UK, elsewhere in the EU or in the wider world; students, postdocs, PIs, and people who have left the lab bench!

Considering this is a fast moving topic, we’ve also created a page with various links to ‘Science After the Referendum’ content. We will try to keep this page updated, and welcome suggestions for pieces we’ve missed.

We recognise what an emotive subject this is, and would like to try to keep this discussion to the referendum’s impact on science and careers. Let us know what you think in the Comment boxes below, or via social media (we’ll also be collating these answers via Storify).




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2 thoughts on “Questions of the Month – After the Referendum”

  1. I’ve written a post on The Node with some of my thoughts more generally here: https://thenode.biologists.com/people-country-enough-experts/discussion/

    In response to your questions:

    For me, this makes it almost certain I will not return to the UK. My husband is American and undertaking a medical residency in paediatrics for the next 3 years, and we both very much miss the UK and had planned, at some point, to return. I have been coming to terms with the near certainty that that now won’t happen. I am also Northern Irish, and Scottish, and lived in England for all my university education. The breakup of the UK that seems inevitable and everything I am currently seeing are, frankly, heartbreaking.

    In terms of what can be done for science: as I’ve alluded to in my post, the uncertainty that exists right now is going to be terribly damaging for the UK scientifically because people have strong incentives to leave, be they EU or UK or frankly simply foreign. The UK has been a strong scientific leader and attracted great talent; I would predict that is going to be less likely to be the case. Frankly, it’s hard enough getting a permanent academic position; why on earth would you make it harder going into this mess, if you could possibly avoid it. Maintaining collaborations in the face of this, and particularly as a community of developmental biologists, is key. Junior people are going to need more support than ever.

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  2. Fortunately enough for us researchers, having a PhD makes it rather easy to move to and from other countries, irrespective of this country being in the EU or not. Sure, some visa issues have to be taken into consideration. These however tend to pale in comparison to what is normally expected of us.

    The biggest issue will be financially, will the the UK retain its access to Horizons2020? For now, with article 50 not even in place and the execution of it taking up to two years, I do not see a need for immediate concern. We like to think of us scientist as objective and neutral, however we are just as much responding to a general climate as the financial markets are. Initial uncertainty will make way for a new temporary status quo.

    What will be essential is for Brussels and London to sort out what kind of agreements will be in place. Unfortunately no official discussions can take place until article 50 has been activated. On top of that it seems that scientific funding isn’t high on the agenda of the UK people or its government, making for a rather worrisome scenario.

    I implore all UK scientist, funding bodies (I’m looking at you Welcome Trust), Societies, Universities, and Journals to put pressure on your government to stay in Horizons2020. The arguments can be made strongly and clearly. This isn’t just about a fuzzy -lets sit in a big circle, hope for worldpeace and sing kumbayah- kind of thing, but a clear financial argument. The UK is currently a net recipient of EU science funding. While the exact effects on a countries economic growth are not always equally clear, a positive effect is clear. With the UK currently a net recipient of Horizons2020 funding it will be imperative to maintain access to this hugely important scheme, to maintain both scientific output and economic growth.

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