Advanced search

Brit Science Minister to probe Brexit bias against UK-based scientists

(73 Posts)
LurkingHusband Wed 13-Jul-16 13:47:07

Jo Johnson, the Minister of State for Universities and Science, has announced that that he has set up an email account to receive evidence that UK scientists have been discriminated against after Brexit.

A confidential survey of the UK’s Russell Group universities found cases where British researchers were being asked to give up their leadership roles and were being dropped from EU projects for fear of being a “financial liability”, The Guardian reported.

Worries that Britain may be an unattractive partner due to funding issues have spread. The paper relates one case of an EU project officer advising that all UK researchers be ousted from a project as their funding may not be guaranteed, and could delay the project which is due to start in 2017.

Speaking at a Science and Technology Committee meeting this morning, Johnson said he wanted to turn any “anecdotal evidence” of discrimination into “concrete evidence”.

“I’m still waiting for hard concrete evidence - but I’m not saying [discrimination] is not happening,” said Johnson.

Professor Phillip Nelson, Chair of Research Councils UK, also a witness at the meeting, said he had seen cases where scientists were afraid of working in the UK.

He spoke of an email he had received which said that the University of Glasgow was having a hard time attracting a “top physicist” because the physicist feared their projects may not be funded.

But whether these were “knee-jerk reactions” post-Brexit was hard to say, Nelson said.

Johnson said he had spoken to Carlos Moedas, the European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation. A spokesperson on Moedas’ team said that the validity of the UK in Horizon 2020, Europe’s largest research and innovation funding programme, remains unchanged.

A “vast majority” of funding comes from Horizon 2020 for innovation programmes, said Kevin Baughan, Chief Development Officer at Innovate UK, which reports to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). He estimated that €680m had been spent into business and innovation, making the UK the second highest recipient after Germany.

Baughan warned that the UK “cannot afford to have a two year pause” in participation with EU projects if it wanted to stay at the forefront of innovation.

Any formal negotiations with the EU will not begin until after Article 50 is triggered, at which point the UK will have two years to negotiate arrangements for its breakup with the EU, including the outlining of any future relationship

Colour me surprised !

TheElementsSong Wed 13-Jul-16 15:36:06

Brave New Britain doesn't need metropolitanliberalelite experts.

freetrampolineforall Wed 13-Jul-16 15:52:55

At least that Johnson is getting stuck in with the practical consequences of it - he was a Remain supporter.

whatwouldrondo Wed 13-Jul-16 16:59:10

My DD is a research scientist, she and her Science friends are very shocked angry and worried about future prospects. Several stories of being aborted from potential EU project teams already and almost all are very worried indeed about whether they will be continue with current projects. They are talking to overseas universities and indeed those already in overseas universities are talking about not returning. The government needs to provide the certainty of future funding to avoid a brain drain. As it is I think these bright young people are very mobile and won't feel any sentimental attachment to home. We already have young medics and nurses leaving for Australia and a better funded health service almost as a norm, it could become easily become the norm for the Science graduates as well. My DD is certainly now assuming she will head to America, or the EU, if they will take her with the right sort of rights of abode. She and many of her friends felt citizens of the U.K. Europe and the world and now feel they have lost their country, never mind taken it back. They wouldn't feel any great wrench applying for an EU citizenship, indeed the details of an EU scheme to bring the brightest and best from the ROTW are doing the rounds, and perceived as comforting

whatwouldrondo Wed 13-Jul-16 17:09:25

But yes I am sure some will say off they go, we don't need them until they get Cancer, or in the case of my DDs' projects, macular degeneration / bowel problems, and can't acess EU trials.....

missmoon Wed 13-Jul-16 18:50:09

It's not anecdotal, this has happened to me and many of my colleagues. The problem is that the UK is only signed up until next year to Horizon 2020. And most research grants are for 2-5 year periods. So it isn't discrimination, but an entirely rational reaction to the uncertainty we are facing. Instead of discussing discrimination, we need an assurance from the government that the UK will continue to pay into the EU science programmes. We can't wait until next year (or whatever), or the damage may become permanent. It really is that serious.

TheElementsSong Wed 13-Jul-16 19:23:09

I agree with missmoon. It's not discrimination. Bottom line is that "we" voted to leave the EU, so why would "we" expect to be considered for EU funding? Complaining about discrimination and asking for guarantees of continued EU funding just makes us a scientific Cornwall.

UK science will be suffering the effects of Leaving the EU, both because of losing research funding but also because there will be a brain drain - not just people leaving, but good scientists who would have come here will now be looking elsewhere.

(The BTL comments are, well, proving the point of the article rather aptly although the irony is doubtless lost on the commenters).

MedSchoolRat Wed 13-Jul-16 19:39:52

You can't force academics to work with colleagues they aren't sure about. Choice between UK vs. non-UK colleagues on a grant app, so now why would they choose UK?

If I was at Jacobs or Lund or Louis Pasteur, I'd consider carefully whether it was worth including a UK partner with unknown EU-relationship status on my grant app. In bio-medicine the grant application process is already cutthroat for NIHR funding, EU was a lot easier. Oh well.

GloriaGaynor Wed 13-Jul-16 23:44:54

So it isn't discrimination, but an entirely rational reaction to the uncertainty we are facing

Bottom line is that "we" voted to leave the EU, so why would "we" expect to be considered for EU funding? Complaining about discrimination and asking for guarantees of continued EU funding just makes us a scientific Cornwall


At what point do you think we will qualify for a Darwin Award?

MaidOfStars Thu 14-Jul-16 13:50:24

May out my institute.... Here's a note from a document sent out last week.

Following the Referendum
It is important to note:
The referendum result has no immediate effect on any academic staff at the University applying to or participating in Horizon 2020.
UK participants can continue to apply to the Programme in the usual way.
Those preparing proposals should continue to do so particularly in light of the fact the budgets available in 2018-2020 are higher than previous years.
There have been isolated cases from other Universities of partners being reluctant to 'risk' a UK participant or coordinator, should you have any details of such cases then please share this information, the University’s senior management team is interested to know these details.

reallyanotherone Thu 14-Jul-16 13:57:57

Maybe johnson should use this to look at the conditions UK scientists work under. 1, 2, or 5 (if you're lucky) year contracts, having to renew grant funding every few years. No grant= no job

Pay isn't good enough to be working with no job stability.

PattyPenguin Thu 14-Jul-16 14:01:31

On the Horizon 2020 website is a message that says
"The Statement of 29 June of the Heads of State or Government of 27 Member States, as well as the Presidents of the European Council and the European Commission, confirms that until the UK leaves the EU, EU law continues to apply to and within the UK, both when it comes to rights and obligations. This includes the eligibility of UK legal entities to participate and receive funding in Horizon 2020 actions."

Note that it says "..until the UK leaves the EU..." What if the UK leaves the EU before the end of the scheme? That would mean that UK legal entities e.g. universities would be ineligible.

Why would any body risk including a partner which could become ineligible during the lifetime of the scheme and its project? Would it lose funding at the point the EU leaves? Is a bid which includes a potentially ineligible partner even going to be considered?

MaidOfStars Thu 14-Jul-16 14:07:38

As a slightly tangential discussion point, I've seen a petition going around to allow UK students to access Erasmus money.

On what grounds can we petition that? How on earth does anybody dream that we will still be allowed to easily access it?

PattyPenguin Thu 14-Jul-16 14:24:37

That's really not going to happen, is it? Erasmus+ provides funding for member states. Once the EU is no longer a member state, no more funding.

MFL students will still do a year abroad, as they always have. But in my day, students got grants from the UK government. Now MFL students will have to have four years' worth of student loans. If they're very lucky their university might let them do a paid work placement abroad, if they can find one.

Students of other subjects will mostly no longer get a chance to spend one or two semesters abroad. From a personal standpoint, it's a good job my DD has already graduated (having benefitted from a semester in Germany).

EvangelineP Thu 14-Jul-16 14:31:01

I work in sector that brings ideas out of academia and turns them into businesses. We have already seen investors pull out of several high profile projects and leave the academics working on them with no grants. Lots are trying to go with their projects to other countries. I don't know anyone in academia/sciences who doesn't think we are seeing the beginning of a huge brain drain. It's not discrimination though. It's common sense. Why would investors invest in projects here at the moment when there are far more stable places.

FoggyBottom Thu 14-Jul-16 14:42:56

whatwouldrondo your description of your DD's views is very moving g, and not limited to young people. I'm easily two e her age and I, too, am a citizen of the UK and Europe. I too feel I've lost my country, not taken it back. You put it well.

I'm in the middle of writing two EU research grant applications. But in a spirit of defiance against the narrow-minded "Little Englanders" I'm forging on. I may well be wasting my precious time for research over the summer (and most of my annual leave), but researchers are nothing if not optimistic.

Pangurban1 Thu 14-Jul-16 14:44:20

Maid, who are they petitioning to retain access to Erasmus funds?

If it is the UK gov't, then they are not the ones who can make a decision on EU funding in the event of a brexit.

If it is the EU, then I presume they would assess the petition as any other 3rd country requesting this funding, in the event of brexit. Hammond said out of single market.

PattyPenguin Thu 14-Jul-16 14:50:19

David Davis (Minister for Brexit) has said the UK will be out of EU by December 2018.

freetrampolineforall Fri 15-Jul-16 08:29:14

Good luck Foggy.

Valentine2 Fri 15-Jul-16 18:34:46

Oh hang on!! Do we listen to experts ?? Or do we not listen to them??
Sorry it's all very confusing for me ! grin

whydidhesaythat Fri 15-Jul-16 19:35:37

"So it isn't discrimination, but an entirely rational reaction to the uncertainty we are facing."


" Instead of discussing discrimination, we need an assurance from the government that the UK will continue to pay into the EU science programmes."

like a mini scientific EU? How would it work?

TheElementsSong Tue 19-Jul-16 14:13:35

I notice that none of the usually prolific Brexiters have deigned to comment on this thread hmm. I would have expected at least one of them to be able to put a positive spin on this, as they have on the buyout of ARM. Or at least a plausible denial, or claim that this would have happened anyway. Or airily declare that we don't need experts anyway because (a) nasty sneering elitists, (b) apparently we can just Google everything.

whatwouldrondo Tue 19-Jul-16 14:39:31

I gather that Jo Johnson has received emails detailing 346 incidents as of the end of last week. So that is 346 teams that we know are affected already.

FoggyBottom Tue 19-Jul-16 14:41:39

Or airily declare that we don't need experts anyway because (a) nasty sneering elitists, (b) apparently we can just Google everything.

All of the above?

FoggyBottom Tue 19-Jul-16 14:42:46

I heard last week directly from the HoD of the department in question that someone has turned down a job because they're a non-UK EU citizen & things were too uncertain.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now