The UK's top scientists have issued a warning to the government over the potential implications of a Brexit following the EU Referendum. In a joint statement, the Academy of Medical Sciences, the British Academy, the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Royal Society, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Royal Irish Academy and the Learned Society of Wales said uncertainty following the vote is already having an impact on research and innovation.
The academies, which represent the UK's best researchers, say the country currently has an outstanding record for research and innovation that is central to our "economic, social and cultural well-being". It creates high-value jobs and spans across service sectors, acting as the "bedrock" of innovation and influence. "The result of the EU Referendum presents a challenge to maintaining this excellence," the statement said. "The current uncertainty is having immediate implications and raises many questions."
At present, 15% of all academic staff working at UK universities are from other EU countries. The letter said these researchers must have assurances that they and their families can remain in the UK, while scientists from the UK must be able to travel to EU countries. "International collaborations lead to research with greater impact – 60% of the UK's internationally co-authored research papers are with EU partners," the statement said.
UK research "draws extensively on collaboration", it continued, while EU funding provides a significant amount of money to the UK. Between 2007 and 2013, it received €6.9bn (£5.7bn). "Urgent discussions are needed on how to address any funding gap in both the short and medium term. In addition, it is not only the scale of funding that is significant, but also the intrinsically collaborative nature of these programmes that allow UK researchers to achieve more than they would alone."
The statement said the EU provides a "strong platform" through which ideas, data and people can be exchanged, and that this has led to the excellence seen today. "Any movement away from this could place UK research at risk," it warned.
"A bold public commitment from the Government that the UK wishes to retain and build this excellence is required to assuage any loss of confidence in UK research."