Yesterday I arrived back in Australia after a three week trip to Canada and the UK. I had been planning to blog about the great IMSC meeting in Canmore, the need for scientists to travel and collaborate, and why it’s important to take holidays sometimes as well. But as a Brit living in Australia and visiting the UK the last couple of weeks, I feel I should write about Brexit.
Last Thursday the people of Britain made by far the most significant decision in my lifetime and voted to leave the EU. I, like a vast majority of scientists and young people, voted for the UK to remain in the EU. And like many other people I’m disheartened by the decision the country made.
Loss of funding?
The EU funds a lot of science and the UK currently gets a disproportionately large amount of that funding. In total around one-sixth of the research funding UK universities get is from the EU. Unless the UK government or the private sector make up the shortfall it is likely that universities will have to cope with a reduction in funding. And of course it’s not just the money- many leading scientists working in the UK are from other EU countries. Even if the UK enters the European Economic Area and retains the free movement of people, the referendum result hardly makes the UK look like a welcoming country to work in.
Within climate science, projects like EUCLEIA and EUSTACE receive all or some of their funding from EU sources. In future, projects like this may not involve UK partners or may not exist at all without UK-based expertise. This could mean that climate science loses out on important progress that would have been made had the UK not left the EU. As science becomes more collaborative and international partnerships grow, it is hard to see the UK remaining a leader in climate science if it doesn’t work together with neighbouring countries.
Need for a global outlook
One of the main dangers of the Brexit result is that the UK could become more insular, turning its back on the world. It is vital for science in the UK that it continues to work together with the best international partners within and beyond the EU. The UK also needs to remain an attractive place for scientists from around the world to live and work.
In short this referendum result has the potential to have very damaging consequences for climate science in the UK and beyond. It is vital that funding is maintained and collaborations grow to allow major projects that will allow great progress in climate science to go ahead.