For many scientists, the outcome of the EU referendum arrived as an unwelcome surprise. Brexit has cast doubt on the security of EU funding for sciences, while the possibility of restrictions on migration poses a challenge to the international and collaborative culture of scientific research.
A report by Prospect Union last month indicated how British participation in numerous ambitious science projects are now in doubt. The report also revealed how one in ten STEM professionals say they plan to leave the UK due to Brexit, while almost a quarter (22%) say they are undecided about whether they wish to remain. Prospect also surveyed 2,758 of its members, which include scientists working in a range of industries. 86% of respondents vocalised their dissatisfaction with the government’s preparations for life outside the EU.
Cambridge voted overwhelmingly to remain. The town is a UK hub for science research and development: its Biomedical Campus is one of the largest centres of science and medical research in the world. The University receives almost a quarter of its research funding from the EU, and its academics hail from all corners of the world. It is thus unsurprising that many academics and scientists have expressed their dissatisfaction at the referendum result.
Today, Cambridge’s MP Daniel Zeichner will host a roundtable discussion in partnership with Alzheimer’s Research UK. The discussion will focus on the relationship between future migration policy and the life sciences sector, and will result in recommendations and actions that Zeichner will put to Government to make it aware of the needs and priorities of those working in the life sciences.
Matthew Norton, Director of Policy and Strategy at Alzheimer’s Research UK, will be chairing the roundtable. He said that it will be an “invaluable opportunity to discuss ways in which we can endeavour to protect life sciences once we leave the European Union”, and that he hopes the recommendations will help achieve a “collective goal of ensuring life sciences continue to thrive post-Brexit”.
For Zeichner, this is also likely a move that will align him with those working in the sciences who may have previously favoured the former Liberal Democratic MP Julian Huppert, a scientist from Cambridge who completed his PhD in Biological Chemistry at Trinity College in 2005. In an article Huppert wrote for the Guardian, he argued that Cambridge was particularly pro-European in part because of its particular characteristics as a world leader in science and technology.