Six Fields Medal winners and 29 Nobel laureates have signed a letter calling on UK and European governments to protect science’s interests following Brexit, Britain’s exit from the EU. Addressed to UK Prime Minister Theresa May and President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, the letter was emailed to reporters yesterday evening (October 22), and warns against the creation of barriers to free movement across the continent.
The signatories are a group of Europe-based scientists and mathematicians led by Nobel laureate and chemist Venki Ramakrishnan, president of the Royal Society. They argue that science needs “the flow of people and ideas across borders,” BBC News reports, and that the UK “must now strive to ensure that as little harm as possible is done to research.”
The letter continues: “The challenges we face must be tackled in a manner that benefits everyone and those challenges are better faced together,” according to Phys.org. “Only a deal which allows the closest possible cooperation between the UK and the EU, now and in the future, will make that possible.”
Speaking on BBC Radio 4 this morning, one of the signatories, Nobel laureate and British geneticist Paul Nurse said that “the increasing chaos—because that’s what it looks like—around the Brexit negotiations is causing huge concern among scientists,” The Guardian reports. “The government doesn’t seem to be putting this at the top of its agenda.”
Government science minister Sam Gyimah responded that preparations are being made. “We all recognize that a chaotic Brexit will be a significant setback for science,” he tells BBC Radio 4. “That is why we have got a plan to ensure that, deal or no deal, there will be no cliff-edge for UK science.”
The letter follows similar calls in recent weeks from other scientists and research organizations concerned about the effects of Brexit. In a statement published last Wednesday (October 17), the Federation of European Academies of Medicine wrote that “as the UK prepares to leave the EU, we must ensure that the close and productive relationships between researchers is protected and preserved in order to address a shared aim of improving the health, safety and wealth of patients and citizens throughout Europe.”
Meanwhile, a report published yesterday (October 22) by The Francis Crick Institute, the UK’s largest biomedical research lab, indicated that only 4 percent of its scientists “think the government is committed to getting a good deal for science,” and as little as 3 percent believe “the scientific community is being listened to.”