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Research Funding

Brexit expected to spur emigration of scientists

by Cheryl Hogue
July 14, 2018 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 96, Issue 29

A group of people in lab coats standing on the U.K. island, looking up at a cloud also shaped like the island.
Credit: Will Ludwig/C&EN
Brexit leaves a cloud of uncertainty over U.K. academic science.

In addition to a predicted economic hit, the U.K. is facing a brain drain as it exits the European Union, officials warned July 11 at a scientific meeting. Talent-strapped universities and companies across the EU “will shop in the U.K.,” said Robert-Jan Smits, the European Commission’s former research and innovation chief. “If anyone is thinking about leaving [the U.K.], think about Ireland,” the Irish government’s Chief Science Adviser Mark W. J. Ferguson said to an audience of mainly European researchers attending the EuroScience Open Forum in Toulouse, France. Rebecca Endean, strategy director for the U.K. Research & Innovation agency, told the meeting that the British government is committed to scientific cooperation with the EU as well as with individual countries through bilateral agreements. Heads of EU countries in October will consider terms for Brexit, including whether to allow the U.K. to remain in the EU’s Horizon 2020 research program. Regardless of the details of the U.K.-EU split, “there is no deal we can negotiate that is as good as what we have now” as an EU member state, said Anne Glover, a molecular biologist who is president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Glover said she has applied for an Irish passport.


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