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Science lifeline blown away

In The Observer, Will Hutton argues that EU funding was a vital lifeline for the UK’s world-leading science research sector but that it has now been blown away.

He notes that public scientific research is one of Britain’s great unsung industries. Its turnover is around £8bn, it employs some 100,000 researchers and it leads the world. After the US, we produce more cited research papers than anyone else.

Leaving the EU could have a massive impact on this. Nearly two-thirds of British scientific research is built on international collaborations underpinned by EU funding.

Since the referendum result was announced, over a quarter of the responses to a monitoring database set up by Scientists for EU have cited problems with bids for intensely competitive funding under the EU’s £70bn Horizon 2020 programme.

Worse still, Hutton says, are reports of xenophobia cited by EU research scientists in their daily life in buses, trains, shops and from neighbours. As he puts it, word is spreading fast: don’t come to Britain.

He adds: “From being at the heart of European scientific research, Britain is going to the margins, with incalculable consequences for our knowledge base, the standing of our universities and research jobs.”

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