Leaving the EU could be detrimental for British science

It’s the big question on everyone’s mind: will Britain remain in the EU? Leaving the EU could have lasting impacts on science, as Professor Sir Paul Nurse, Nobel Prize winner, believes UK research would struggle to find funding, inevitably selling “future generations short”.

Alternatively, a group of scientists believe British institutions would receive similar amounts of European funding as we do now. The national referendum will dictate the future of science for Britain, as we decide if our collaboration with the EU is worth our time and money.

Professor Nurse, the director of the Francis Crick Institute and former president of the Royal Society, considers individuals who campaign for a Brexit are endangering the “long-term future of the UK for short-term political advantage”. He has also argued the mobility of EU scientists “gives us increased collaboration, increased transfer of people, ideas and science – all of which history has shown us drives science”.

It is important to consider that voting ‘yes’ to Brexit would mean cutting well-established ties with the EU. Surely casting away powerful partners is not a positive move for Britain?

In 2007-2013, the UK gave a total of €78bn to the EU. Of this, 5.4 billion was allocated to the EU’s research and development programme. In return, 8.8 billion Euros returned to the UK for for the same purpose.

An opposing view has been posed by Professor Dalgeish, of St George’s Hospital, University of London, who is a spokesman for Scientists for Britain, a group of researchers keen to leave the EU. He states: “We put far more into Europe than we get out. Any difference we can more than easily make up with the money we would save”.

Professor Dalgeish claims that remaining in the EU stems from the “narrow self-interest” of large scientific institutions and universities that benefit from millions of pounds funded from the EU.

James Wilsdon, Professor of Research Policy at Sheffield University, and an advisor to Scientists for EU, believes it would be “highly unlikely for UK research organisations to secure the same level of funding if they were to leave the EU… I think there is a lot of wishful thinking from the Leave camp in terms of having our cake and eating it”.

Ultimately, money is what funds research and the loss of funding from the EU could hinder future scientific development for Great Britain.


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September 2021
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