The UK voted in a referendum this June to leave the European Union. Although many predicted that Britain would choose to remain in the EU, the “Leave” camp won the majority in that referendum. The country is now in a situation where it has to start a difficult negotiations process with the EU to exit the European bloc. Not much has changed yet as the negotiations are probably going to start in 2017, according to British Prime Minister Theresa May. But the outlook for cooperation with Britain has changed. Since everybody knows that Britain will no longer be part of the EU in the future, eventual collaborations are on hold. And this is affecting the field of science and research. An area where the UK does very well, in part due to collaborative efforts.
Uncertainty Related to the Brexit Affects Science and Research
The United Kingdom dived head first into the Brexit referendum. Now, after the fact, there is uncertainty regarding the way things will look after Britain leaves the EU. There are many questions that don’t have an answer yet, since what is going to happen is unprecedented. What Britain’s trading relationship with the EU is going to look like in the future. How Britain is going to be able to access the single market. What the status of European nationals living and working in Britain is going to be. And what rights they are going to have.
The uncertainty is widespread and it is affecting many different areas of British society. One of them is the area of science and research. The scientific community relies on long-term commitments. Funding goes to projects on the long term and requires stability. Research also happens more easily when researchers can benefit from cross-border mobility and from international collaboration.
British Research Projects Will Miss EU Funding
The UK’s upcoming Brexit is going to disrupt activity in the area of science and research. This is an area where the UK excels. Many of the world’s leading universities and research centers are in the United Kingdom. But right now researchers are looking at the future and are unsure what to make of it.
The science and research sector in the UK was one of the beneficiaries of financial payments from the European Union. The debate before the referendum was a lot about how much EU membership is costing Britain. But as far as scientific research is concerned, the UK is definitely benefiting from being a member state. From 2007 to 2013, a variety of European Union programs sent 3.4 billion euros Britain’s way. That’s 3.7 billion dollars.
Britain is a global leader when it comes to science and research. Many of its world-class universities can be credited with top scientific papers. But a considerable part of that work has been done on EU money. For example, over the last decade, 40 percent of the funding for research into cancer came from EU sources. That’s nearly half. In other areas of research, the proportion is even higher. For nanotechnology research it is 62 percent. In evolutionary biology it is 67 percent.
Funding from the EU filled the gap whenever British government funding fell short of the needs of research. Now, the research and scientific community is looking with uncertainty at the future of their research projects.
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