Author Archives: Stephen Kelly

Science and Brexit – now what?

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Not a lot of positives came from last year’s divisive EU referendum. However, one silver lining seems to be that science is being talked about by all parties, in no small part due to the efforts of fantastic groups like Scientists For EU. As a British PhD student starting to think about post-doctoral opportunities, I have a somewhat vested interest in ensuring that our national science capability is as strong as it possibly can be.

Brexit remains a serious threat to UK science, both directly due to the loss of EU funding (something that the UK had always been a big winner on) and indirectly through anti-immigration attitudes and policies that make attracting the best people more difficult. The best way to prevent this damage is to stay in the EU, but if Brexit does happen, we need to keep freedom of movement and membership of agencies like Euratom as a minimum. As a cautionary note, it’s worth pointing out that Switzerland lost full access to Horizon 2020 until they extended freedom of movement to Croatia. And Switzerland have the Large Hadron Collider.

However, Brexit isn’t the only issue facing British science right now, and it’s these lesser discussed issues that I’d like to focus on. The first is science funding. As a wealthy nation, our current R&D spending is embarrassingly low – 1.7% of GDP. That’s a long way behind the USA, EU, and OECD average, and it needs to be addressed (More in depth analysis here). There is some good news though: all 3 main parties have pledged to increase science funding: the Conservatives want 2.4% within 10 years, Labour want 3% by 2030, and we’ve pledged to double it (so 3.4%) in the ‘long term.’

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