Royal Society releases figures showing how Brexit has harmed UK science

Article by Adam Duckett

THE UK’s Royal Society says figures show that Brexit is harming UK science, with 35% fewer scientists coming to the UK through EU schemes.

In 2015, before the UK voted to leave the EU, 515 people came to the UK on Marie Sklodowska Curie Individual Fellowships that allow top international talent to relocate to institutions within the EU. France was the second-largest host country with 158 visiting fellows. In 2018, the UK saw just 336 individuals come to the UK on the scheme, while Italy, Switzerland and Spain made significant gains. 

Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society said “We have seen a dramatic drop in the number of leading researchers who want to come to the UK. People do not want to gamble with their careers, when they have no sense of whether the UK will be willing and able to maintain its global scientific leadership.”

The Royal Society says despite the UK Government committing to guarantee funding for UK bids to the EU’s Horizon 2020 R&D funding programme, uncertainty is having a clear impact.

The analysis found that the number of UK applications to the Horizon 2020 scheme, the world’s largest international R&D investment programme, were down 39% in 2018 compared to 2015; while the number of successful applications in the same period fell by 32%. Taken together, the UK’s share of the budget has dropped from 15.8% in 2015 to 11.3% or €1.06bn (US$1.18bn) in 2018.

“The EU aren’t punishing us,” the report reads, “when we apply we are successful.”

However, there have been anecdotal reports that UK researchers have been asked by EU collaborators to withdraw because their involvement may negatively affect funding applications.

Ramakrishnan said: “The potential paralysis of a no-deal Brexit and the current state of chaos are hurting UK science and that is hurting the national interest.”

Article by Adam Duckett

Editor, The Chemical Engineer

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