It is being reported that there is already evidence of the precautionary retreat from Britain of EU research funding and of collaborative research proposals for such funding which include British institutions – until the nature of future relationships of Britain with the EU become clear.
European institutions are understandably uncomfortable about committing to long term research programmes in collaboration with their British counterparts, with the funding sources now uncertain.
Academics from EU member states are reluctant to enter into joint research initiatives with their peers in Britain, lest entire projects fail to go ahead, leaving wasted intellectual and logistical effort in framing them.
Today European partners are said to be asking British academics to withdraw their applications for future research funding.
This was always going to be a matter of serious concern where developmental scientific and technological research projects are concerned.
The consequences of such isolation are wholly negative and are not simply financial.
Funding such research is of fundamental importance, of course. That goes without saying.
The EU funds a selection of collaborative research projects which bring together top experts in specific fields and issues across Europe. This collaboration does not just support reputable results. Exposure to other fine minds and abilities – as a collaborating peer – is itself developmental for all concerned; and such development drives even more important research.
Students and lecturers as well as researchers across the EU work in universities in the states of fellow members.
Top flight research academics in areas of importance today are an asset in universal demand. Britain’s brightest and best will not stay in home establishments if reductions in funding and obstructions to working with the often few other experts in their fields become part of the scene here. Facilities may not be mobile but people can – and will – walk.
That sort of brain drain is catastrophic for intellectual status, employment growth and economic impact.
The EU’s contribution to the development of science and technology through its financial support of cross-nation collaborative research has been one of its major successes.
Projects involving academics from smaller universities have also had a beneficial effect in inclusivity, in strengthening specialisms where the expertise is to be found and thereby in supporting the attraction for strands of undergraduate and post graduate students of universities outside the Russell group of the most widely regarded British universities.
This situation is tough for the British university sector which was strongly in favour of continuing membership of the EU.
It is a situation Scotland’s universities have already been forced to contemplate during the Scottish Independence Referendum campaign since, within Britain, the continuation of the current level of research funding and collaboration were at risk in the event of a Scottish departure from the United Kingdom.
The consequences of such retractions may well come home to roost here in Argyll with the widely respected Scottish Association for Marine Science [SAMS] and the wide range of top flight researches in which its multinational research staff engage as uncertain as anyone of what lies ahead.