Having avidly watched the UK election results, I was discussing them with friends over at Scientists for Labour when the prospect of Brexit was raised. A Conservative majority guarantees an in/out EU referendum and the anti-immigration sentiment evident from the voting results indicate the referendum might be closer than previously expected.
Within hours myself and Mike Galsworthy had launched a Facebook account, Twitter account and a short while after a website – for a new, positive campaign called Scientists for EU. Although this came from talks amongst Labour supporting scientists, it’s staunchly non-partisan and is already in communication with Lib Dems and Tories and other groups, looking for as broad a consensus as possible.
Exit from the EU would be disastrous for UK innovation.
I’ve previously talked about the enormous economic benefits that international students bring to the UK , and the Conservatives have just recently been harping on about their commitment to reduce net migration to tens of thousands and how they’re going to continue to hammer student visas – the loss of international students is a drastic loss to the higher education sector and to the economy at large.
The need for freedom of movement in science is well known – science is an unusual market, full of niche and developing fields that can rapidly expand when something proves right and may need to grab specialist talent from far flung places if it’s to produce the goods for society.
It isn’t just jobs for boffins either – studies show that 20% of UK jobs rely on ‘science knowledge’. That’s a large chunk of the economy, and one that must be supported if we’re to diversify from our over-reliance on the financial sector.
Universities UK have been proclaiming the dangers loudly, pointing to the benefits of exchange schemes for students but also highlighting the need for large scale collaboration if we’re to combat enormous challenges like climate change, food and water security, and disease.
It is imperative that all scientists, engineers and innovators make their voices heard on this issue and combat the negative image of migrants and EU membership
These days we face big challenges: ageing societies have more cancer, more dementia, more demand for food and services, and at the same time, climate change and inefficient farming threaten our ability to produce food and water for the growing population. These challenges can only be met with ‘Big Science’ – collaboration between thousands of innovators, working on well coordinated projects, across borders.
The EU is currently providing this social need for 500 million people and is producing great returns. It is imperative that all scientists, engineers and innovators make their voices heard on this issue and combat the negative image of migrants and EU membership.