Science in a time of Brexit August 3, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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.
…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.
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.