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article imageOp-Ed: Concern grows in the science community over Brexit

By Tim Sandle     Jul 10, 2016 in Science
London - The surprise decision by the British electorate to vote to leave the European Union continues to send shock waves through the economy. One area potentially affected is science and scientists continue to raise concerns.
The impact on science and technology as a result of the UK leaving the European Union was discussed and documented in advance of the vote (Digital Journal reported on this matter in the lead up to the vote).
Now the dust is settling, concerns continue to be raised. One concern is about the Brexit unit established by David Cameron, which does not have a clear science focus. A second concern is about a loss of common standards (for example, as expressed by Tim Lang, a professor of Food Policy at City University London’s Center for Food Policy. A third area is in relation to access to funding a concern as to whether the British government will make up any shortfall, should it occur.
A large proportion of science funding comes from the European Union Horizon 2020 initiative. In fact, Horizon 2020 provides over half of the U.K. research funding. In addition, U.K. universities receive around 10 percent of their research funding from the EU. This amounts to just over a billion pounds a year. This topic is receiving lots of comments on social media, the overwhelming majority of which are concerned with the uncertain future for British science.
There are also environmental issues to consider, such as the impact of the U.K. withdrawing from the leaving the common fisheries policy, in terms of conservation of fish stocks.
Other concerns relate to restrictions on collaborations with European universities and bodies, and how the free-movement of people might impact on science. Such concerns were recently expressed by Professor Sir Paul Nurse in an interview with the BBC: “UK science will not thrive unless free movement continues”, was his succinct opinion.
With technology, BCS (Chartered Institute for information technology), has reinforced concerns surrounding uncertainty. The New Statesman indicates that institute believes that discussions with the EU should focus on ensuring access to digital markets, freedom to innovate and growth of the academic research base.
In attempted to reassure the science sector, U.K. government minister Jo Johnson (sister of lead Brexit advocate Boris Johnson) said in a statement: “This ‘knowledge quarter’, like many others around the country, embodies so much that is special about the UK as a research and innovation powerhouse as we face new challenges and ever stronger global competition.”
She also added: “Now is the time to focus on the future, and with an optimistic mindset. We must look for the positives, while we deal with the challenges.” Whether such statement are sufficient remains to be seen.
In related news, there is growing concern about attacks on European scientists. For example, on June 7, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in Parma received a package containing explosive material addressed to a scientist. In response, European research organisations have called upon the European Parliament to encourage society to respect independent science advice and to condemn physical attacks on scientists.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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