The state of science in the European Union has been thrown into uncertainty after the United Kingdom voted to leave the 28-member union Thursday in a referendum.
The Brexit decision could have serious consequences for European and British scientists working in the UK and on the continent, including a drain of talent from the UK itself, according to researchers and organizations watching this decision.
“Our evidence showed that the UK’s EU membership was regarded as having a mostly positive influence on the effectiveness of UK science, research and innovation, especially with respect to funding and collaboration,” Dominic Tildesley, president of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said in a statement.
From 2007 to 2013, the UK got 8.8 billion euros of the 107 billion euros spent on research innovation and development by the EU, a Royal Society report found. Staff from the EU comprise about 15 percent of the university workforce in the UK, and 5 percent of students, according to a report from Universities for Europe.
Researchers are now hoping to ensure science remains supported as the UK government works toward possibly leaving the EU.
“In the past, UK science has been well supported by EU funding. This has been an essential supplement to UK research funds,” Venki Ramakrishnan, president of the Royal Society, said.
“In the upcoming negotiations we must make sure that research, which is the bedrock of a sustainable economy, is not short changed, and the Government ensures that the overall funding level of science is maintained.”
With this referendum, scientists worry that kind of funding and support could eventually go away, making it harder for UK scientists to work and collaborate in EU countries and EU scientists to work in the UK.
“Our first priority will be to convince the UK Government to take steps to ensure that staff and students from EU countries can continue to work and study at British universities in the long term, and to promote the UK as a welcoming destination for the brightest and best minds,” Dame Julia Goodfellow, President of Universities UK, said in a statement.
“They make a powerful contribution to university research and teaching and have a positive impact on the British economy and society. We will also prioritise securing opportunities for our researchers and students to access vital pan-European programmes and build new global networks.”
Prominent scientists have also spoken out about the decision before and after the votes were counted.
Before the referendum, famous cosmologist Stephen Hawking came out strongly against leaving the EU.
“Gone are the days when we could stand on our own, against the world,” Hawking said in an interview with ITV’s Good Morning Britain in May. “We need to be part of a larger group of nations, both for our security and our trade.”
Some scientists have also posted their thoughts about the referendum on Twitter. Researchers also responded to a Nature call asking for reactions to the referendum on Twitter.