Vote UKIP and risk the future of British science
A UKIP win this week would no doubt being removed from Europe which would be a disaster for British Science.
Politics has become a very strange place of recent. In this week’s European elections its thought that a lot of right-wing parties, some of which are very extreme, are believed to do very well. An it’s likely for the first time in its existence the main body of the European Union will be full of people that would have it not exist.
At the front of these right-wing parties is Nigel Farage leader of the UK Independence Party. Already a member of the European Parliament, The main aim of UKIP is to get Britain out the EU. The Union’s freedom of movement rules have caused a large number of migrant workers to move to Britain in search of work and has served as a reason for the rise of UKIP. Farage sees withdrawal from Europe as the only solution to stem the influx of migrants.
This could be a disaster for the scientists and workers of the British Science industry.
This is the British Science industry has a lot to lose. In global terms Britain punches way above its weight in science terms. Scientists in the UK makes up just 1% of the global total. Scientists here publish 16% of the world’s most cited research papers. It is EU policy to encourage the highest quality of research to be done in Europe through competitive funding on the basis of scientific excellence. This means that scientists in the UK bring in a lot of money. Put into reason for every £1 spent in the UK contributing, we receive about £1.40 back.
If there was a withdrawal from Europe. we would lose access to all of this funding from the European Research Council. Scientists in Britain would also lose influence over the research agenda in Europe. Just as importantly it would cut all ties with some of their important collaborators.
Lone scientists are a thing of the past. Collaboration is now vital, more than a third of the papers published in high quality journals are the result of team work and collaboration. EU funded science projects require the involvement of at least three different EU members or associate states. If the UK was to leave Europe, British scientists will be hung out to dry. We know this as it has already happened recently to the Swiss scientists, who used to enjoy access to EU research funding.
In February, Swiss voters rejected a deal that would allow Croatians free movement across the country’s borders. This was a result of campaigning done by the Swiss People’s Party, which has similar views to UKIP when it comes to Europe. Limiting the movement of people from the EU’s latest member Croatia, didn’t comply with EU principles, so Switzerland were stripped of its associate member status
Associate members benefit from almost full participation in EU programmes, including research projects funded from the EU pot.
Horizon 2020 is the latest set of EU funded projects, which has about £65 billion to allocate over the next six years. Swiss researchers and scientists have been excluded from receiving any of its grants. Before February, Swiss students could get grants to work in labs across Europe under the EU’s Erasmus programme.
Its been reported that Switzerland has lost international competitiveness, with many of the senior scientists heading to countries that can access EU funds. Many young researchers are also leaving, with them relying on prestigious EU grants to to advance their careers.
Withdrawing from Europe would take several years however the impact on science would be straight away. The British Science industry would find itself in a similar position as its Swiss counterparts. Although we wouldn’t be completely without funds, as the UK’s research councils invest about £3 billion every year. On the European stage though British scientists would suddenly find that they count for nothing.
It is thought that voter apathy will result in a low turnout for tomorrow’s poll, however we can be sure that UKIP supporters will be out. As a result this could be disastrous for British Science and leave a very murky future.