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Science in a time of Brexit August 3, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Depressing piece in the Observer in recent weeks on how the president of the Royal Society, Venkatraman “Venki” Ramakrishnan has argued in strong terms about the negative impacts of Brexit on science and science funding in the UK.

First and foremost:

Ministers must intervene as a matter of urgency to underwrite EU research grants given to UK scientists…Failure to act swiftly could generate waves of uncertainty over UK researchers’ future involvement in major European science projects following last month’s Brexit vote, he said.
And this…

…so that their European colleagues will know they will be able to continue to work with our scientists despite Brexit. We have made our views clear on this to the government.

Worse:

Ramakrishnan said that like most scientists in this country, he was disappointed by the result. EU funds had played a major role in keeping British science afloat when it encountered budget problems during the coalition government, he said, while Britain’s involvement in establishing major research programmes has given scientists a powerful role in directing the course of international science.

This has been to me one of the most inexplicable aspects of Brexit – the reality that EU funding made up the gap in so many areas like science where the UK government was unwilling to – particularly when driven by economic austerity measures. That funding isn’t going to be replaced. That is the simple hard reality when the British economy enters a period or reconsolidating at a lower level of activity and given the dominance of a Tory party wedded to lesser intervention in the state and state activities.

And the Tories are open about this already:

At present, however, science minister Jo Johnson has indicated there is little likelihood of full compensation being provided.

The situation isn’t going to improve any time soon. Perhaps never.

As to how materially EU funding benefitted science research in the UK:

“Between 2007 and 2013 we put €5.4bn [£4.5bn] into EU research funds and got €8.8bn back in grants to our scientists,” he said. “[UK scientists] do disproportionately well out of Europe and I hope the government will make up that shortfall when we eventually leave. If they do not, the impact will be really dramatic.”

Again, one doesn’t have to be a starry-eyed europhiliac to feel that one can and should work the advantages of the EU while retaining a profoundly critical stance on its democratic and legitimating aspects. Even the simple fact of interactions and relationships through scientific engagement being limited is loss that doesn’t seem to me to be worth the supposed gains.

Comments»

1. Phil - August 3, 2016

It’s Leavers, above all, who should be kicking up about this. Given that the UK is a net contributor to the EU, replacing everything we get from the EU like-for-like shouldn’t be a problem – we should be able to do that and bank the difference. Of course this isn’t going to happen – but why not?

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2. Michael Carley - August 3, 2016

Two things here. The first is the general self-deception that EU spending would be replaced by UK national funds. The EU was doing things that the UK government simply refused to do. In this case, UK R+D spending is very low, and the shortfall was made up in part by EU money. Worth looking at the numbers:

http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/R_%26_D_expenditure

Once again, a complacent elite is looking at the consequences of its decades of asset-stripping.

The other is that I am one of those people looking for EU money. Luckily, my colleagues on the proposal decided not to throw out the UK participants, but I would have understood if they had. A lot of people have been told they’re out of proposals and a lot more haven’t been told because they’re not even being invited to start with.

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sonofstan - August 3, 2016

Yes, hearing the same, and since our research budget would be tiny in comparison with yours, in a way the effects of being dropped from even one bid will be disproportionate.
I seem to be the only one here who thinks we’ll see a drop in EU student numbers almost straight away – everyone else thinks the attraction of coming to the UK will override the bad news; have me doubts.

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Michael Carley - August 3, 2016

The other side of that is that so much prestige, and criteria for promotion, are based on funding, whether or not you do anything useful with it. We are assessed on how much public money we waste, and now there’s less money.

Given that the Netherlands and Germany, among others, offer free higher education to everybody who comes, often in English, why would you go to the UK and deal with the aggravation?

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sonofstan - August 3, 2016

“We are assessed on how much public money we waste”

shhhh…🙂

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Michael Carley - August 3, 2016
benmadigan - August 3, 2016

the UK mystique legend is fading fast – students, their parents who are footing the bills and lots of other people are starting to glimpse the emptiness behind the UK glamour myth – EU students’ll go elsewhere in the EU to get just as good a degree at a lower cost

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sonofstan - August 3, 2016

Absolutely. I remember the sudden interest in my office when i mentioned how -relatively -cheap university fees were in Ireland to a roomful of men with teenage kids

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3. Starkadder - August 3, 2016

Never mind, sez the “Socialist Voice”.
The decline of bourgeois EU-funded science will finally allow the British working class to rediscover the true socialist knowledge of the great proletarian scientist Trofim Lysenko !🙂

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4. gendjinn - August 4, 2016

In the very early 90s the Tory govt began an assault on academic tenure. An assault that has found willing allies and success throughout the “western world”.

So I wouldn’t be expecting any effort to replace the lost EU funding.

Opportunity for Irish research institutions if the govt will fund it.

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Michael Carley - August 4, 2016

Times Higher Education has a double page ad for the Irish Research Council advertising how brilliant Ireland is for research.

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sonofstan - August 4, 2016

http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/education/ireland-moves-to-poach-research-talent-from-britain-in-wake-of-brexit-34937383.html

Front page of the print version I believe.
Breaks down into:
It’s great! We speak English! there might be some money somewhere!

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Michael Carley - August 4, 2016

Here it is

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sonofstan - August 4, 2016

Can’t fault it, really..
England’s difficulty etc…

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5. Jim Monaghan - August 4, 2016

Ireland, quite rightly and legitimately, has asked for this agency. Look at the comments for the boiled up racism of many of the comments.
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/aug/01/ireland-calls-eu-drug-medicines-agency-moved-london-dublin

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