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Leading scientists warn about Brexit threat to research

Monday, 22 October, 2018 - 16:40

Thirty-five Nobel and mathematics prize winners warned the UK and European authorities of the risks posed by Brexit to scientific research in a letter sent to the European Commission on Monday.

“The challenges we face need to be tackled in a way that is beneficial to all, and will be better tackled together,” say the signatories of the open letter to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and British Prime Minister Theresa May.

“Only an agreement allowing the closest possible cooperation between the United Kingdom and the EU, today and in the future, will allow it”, say the scientists.

Scientific progress “requires the exchange of people and ideas across borders to enable the rapid exchange of expertise and technology. Creating new barriers to collaboration will hinder progress, to the detriment of all of us,” they say.

This letter is published at the same time as a survey of researchers at the Francis Crick Institute in London, which reveals their concerns about Brexit. At the institute, which describes itself as “the largest biomedical research laboratory under one roof in Europe”, 97 percent of the 1,053 scientists surveyed believe that the exit of the UK from the EU will have negative consequences on research in the country.

And nearly 82 percent of them believe that the consequences will be “negative” or “very negative” at EU level. Several researchers have expressed their difficulties in recruiting, as well as “stress” or “anxiety” caused by Brexit.

“We need an agreement that replaces lost funding, preserves the freedom of movement of talented scientists, and makes them feel welcome” in the UK, said Britain’s Paul Nurse, Nobel Prize-winning head of the biomedical Francis Crick Institute, who was also signatory of the open letter.


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