Research Councils UK sets out its stance post Brexit vote


The UK research sector must retain its relationships with the EU, irrespective of the vote, to maintain its global position in the future…

Research Councils UK (RCUK) has said it will continue to develop relationships and collaborate with research partners both in the EU and globally in the wake of the EU referendum vote.

RCUK, which is the strategic partnership of the UK’s seven research councils, released a statement outlining plans to maintain a strong platform for discovery and innovation in the future.

The statement said: “The success of UK research is dependent on our best researchers collaborating with partners and sharing facilities across international boundaries.

“We are committed to enabling and facilitating these collaborations between UK researchers and international partners in Europe and across the world.

“Following the UK’s referendum vote to leave the European Union we are working with our research communities and with Government to ensure that the UK is well placed to maintain its place as a leading research nation.”

RCUK said that collaboration and engagement should continue as normal until Article 50—the mechanism to leave the EU—is triggered. Researchers should also continue to participate in projects supported by the EU’s flagship research programme Horizon2020, which benefits not only UK researchers but also other member states.

“The Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson has confirmed that while the UK remains a full member of the EU there is no immediate change for those applying to, or participating in, Horizon 2020,” RCUK said.

“This means that UK participants can continue to apply to the programme in the usual way.

“The Research Councils will honour existing commitments and obligations through EU funded programmes; and we remain committed to our existing strong partnerships with European colleagues.”

The statement also acknowledged there would undoubtedly be uncertainty about the future of UK science and its relationship with the EU, but assured the community it is working with the government to ensure science is represented in Brexit negotiations.

It said: “The outcome of the EU Referendum raises questions for UK researchers and international partners about the Research Councils’ international activities and collaborations.

“We are actively working with Government on issues related to UK research and we will provide further information when it is available.

“We remain committed to enabling the best researchers to collaborate internationally. We place great value on our partnerships with European and international colleagues, as well as the contribution made by non-UK nationals working for the Research Councils, at our centres and institutes or engaged in the activities that we fund.

“We are committed to supporting researchers and students from EU nations currently working in the UK and contributing to the world-class standing of our research base.”

Science and research is a vital part of the UK’s economy. The statistics reveal some 15.9 per cent of the world’s most cited scientific research articles come from the UK, despite only representing 0.9 per cent of the global population. The UK also boasts world-leading laboratories and ranks highly in terms of its impact through science. This is something the RCUK is keen to continue.

“Our ambition is that the UK remains one of the best places in the world to do research, to innovate and grow business.

“We recognise that this ambition can only be realised if UK researchers are able to engage with brightest minds, the best organisations and facilities wherever they are placed in the world.”

RCUK also pointed out that leaving the EU will not impact relationships with a number of European facilities such as CERN, the European Southern Observatory (ESO), European Space Agency (ESA), Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL), European Spallation Source (ESS) and European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF). International collaborations will also remain unaffected, meaning the UK will keep close ties with projects such as the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), T2K and the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).

Mobility across EU nations is a vital part of developing science and preventing brain drain. It is unclear what stance the government will take in relation to freedom of movement in the negotiations, but it remains a key component of conducting world-class science. The RCUK said it will highlight the issue of research mobility in any future discussions, as well as the looming question over the future of EU nationals employed in the UK.

“In his statement the Prime Minister confirmed that there would be no immediate changes following the Referendum, including the circumstances of British Citizens living in the EU, and European citizens living here,” the statement continued.

“This includes those studying or working in UK Universities. The Universities and Science Minister reiterated in a speech on 30 June 2016 that the UK government hugely values the contribution of EU and international staff and confirmed that there will be no immediate changes to their rights to live and work in the UK.”

The RCUK concluded by noting friendship between the UK and EU would continue and that collaboration is still a vital part of research development.

“The UK is a leading and integral part of the European research and innovation landscape.

“While the ways that UK researchers will be funded to participate in future EU funded projects will be a matter for future discussions, the UK government aims to ensure that the UK continues to play a leading role in European and international research.

“Research Councils currently actively engage in EU funding programmes at all levels and related policy dialogue, and have strong relationships and partnerships with other research funding and performing organisations across Europe.”


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