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Friday, August 11, 2017

Could Brexit lead to a brain drain that will decimate UK scientific research?

The Independent details the story of Nobel Prize winning physicist, Andre Geim and the impact of Brexit on his work and that of his fellow scientists. In particular they say:

A Brexit survey run in March by Nature found that of the 907 UK researchers who were polled, around 83 percent believed the UK should remain in the EU. Paul Drayson, former minister of science in the Department for Business, told Scientific American: “The very idea that a country would voluntarily withdraw from Europe seems anathema to scientists.” In Geim’s case, he and most of his engineers are not British by birth. Indian and Chinese nationalities dominate, followed by Russians, Ukrainians, Italians, Spanish and Polish. All of his funding comes from the EU. The Brexit result has cast thick doubt about how money and people will flow to and from the UK.

The paper suggests that the danger Brexit poses is vast to British scientific research:

That long and storied tradition which, from Newton to Hunter, from Turing to Crick, has enabled the UK to put its name to a multitude of world-altering discoveries. Sticklers will argue that Newton’s discovery of gravity, or Turing’s foundational work in computing happened without EU subsidy. But none could seriously contest that British scientists have flourished within the framework the EU has created for collaborative science, and the structures it has provided to facilitate that enterprise.

Even before Brexit, the level of UK science spending stood below 0.5 percent of GDP, a lower percentage than any other G8 nation. Loss of additional funding would compound the pressures placed on scientific institutions. Even if the British government manages to compensate for the financial shortfall, the psychological effects of Brexit will linger. In 2015, long before the Brexit vote, Dr Sara Kendrew, an astronomer at Oxford University, warned of anti-immigrant rhetoric’s ambient effects. “Our foreign-born scientists are part of the hidden face of migration in this country,” she wrote in The Guardian. “They work extremely hard to teach and mentor students at our universities… and bring in millions of pounds in research funds.”

Brexit will make us poorer in more way than one.

To me over the period of decades that the vitriol of the Brexiteers hatred of the EU has been going they never gave a serious thought to the consequences to the UK. Their chickens are coming home to hatch.
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