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Brexit big blow to UK science: researchers

Saturday, Jun 25, 2016,17:12 IST By Metrovaartha A A A

London | Top British scientists, including one of Indian-origin, have reacted with dismay to the country’s decision to leave the European Union, which hands them nearly one billion pound a year for research, terming the result a big blow for hiring talented people.

The EU sends to their laboratories some of the most brilliant minds in the world, scientists said. Paul Boyle, vice-chancellor of Leicester University, called the shocking result a dark day for UK science and requested for every effort to be made to counter any feeling that the UK had become less welcoming to international researchers.

According to a May report by the UK data group Digital Science, scientific research in Britain was supported by the EU funding to a concerning level. Pro-European science minister Jo Johnson made it clear there was no guarantee that a post-Brexit government would be willing or able to make up any shortfall if the EU funds collapsed, ‘the Guardian’ reported.

This is a big blow for the hiring of talented people across the EU, said Ewan Birney, co-director of the European Bioinformatics Institute in Cambridge. This is a poor outcome for British science and so is bad for Britain. Science thrives on the permeability of ideas and people, and flourishes in environments that pool intelligence, minimises barriers and are open to free exchange and collaboration, added Paul Nurse, Nobel prize winner and director of the Francis Crick Institute.

Venki Ramakrishnan, another Nobel laureate and the president of the Royal Society, said the EU money has been an important supplement to UK research funds, and that government must now ensure that the budget for UK science does not fall. The UK relies greatly on researchers from EU member states, scientists said.

According to a report from the Royal Society, more than 31,000 people, making up 16 per cent of Britain’s university researchers are drawn from non-UK EU countries. Anne Glover from Aberdeen University said she was personally heartbroken at the result of the referendum and had great concern for the future of British science, engineering and technology.

Our success in research and resulting impact relies heavily on our ability to be a full part of European Union science arrangements and it is hard to see how they can be maintained upon a Brexit, she said.

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