In the past 12 months, there has been a lot of discussion about the potential British exit from the European Union (Brexit). A lot of people may be affected by the proceedings although it is impossible to predict exactly what the outcome will be. Many biologists have concerns about how Brexit will affect them. In the following report, we will consider how Brexit might affect biologists who are working in the United Kingdom.
Funding is a primary concern for many biologists who are working in research and development at UK universities. Although some funding is currently available from UK sources, large amounts of research funding currently come from the European Union. It is unclear as to whether British institutions will be able to continue to have access to this funding. It is possible that UK bioscientists may lose as much as €1bn per annum. Whilst most major European funding bodies have stated that any promised funding will still be fulfilled, they have also advised that British universities will not eligible once the state has left the European Union. Alternative funding sources may need to be found to help to support ongoing research projects. Although international funding may be available from other sources, any external funders can have an effect on the research objectives of a project. It is unlikely that the UK government will be able to match the level of funding which will be lost with the loss of EU membership.
Knowledge-Sharing and Influence
It is likely that there will be a small, but not significant reduction in knowledge-sharing between British and European researchers. Some European scientists may be asked not to share pertinent information with the United Kingdom in the same way that they used to. As the United Kingdom will no longer be involved the major institutions of the European Union, British biologists will not be able to influence any new EU legislation. Many biological issues, such as environmental policies, are cross-border issues, meaning that international co-ordination is appreciated. Although UK scientists may still be consulted, it is likely that they will have less power to shape new policy or bring new issues to the table.
Freedom of Movement
If freedom of movement laws are changed when the UK leaves the EU, it may become harder for European biologists to get roles at British universities or in British businesses. This may mean that departments are not able to recruit the best and brightest scientists. Likewise, British biologists may find it harder to get roles in European universities. Working as part of an international team has been shown to have a positive effect in a research environment. Recruitment and retainment issues could affect the ability of UK institutions to compete on a global scale. On the other hand, changes in migration laws could make it easier for British biologists to get roles within institutions that are closer to home.
Businesses and research departments may be hit by increased costs, due to the fact that a lot of lab equipment, chemicals and biological products which are in use are currently imported from continental Europe. We have already seen increased costs due to turbulent exchange rates; however costs may also change due to the cessation of certain international trade deals. When negotiating new trade deals for the United Kingdom, it is therefore very important that the government considers the needs of the science and technology sector in the country.
At present, there are no certainties about how Brexit will affect the country’s biologists. We must wait and see how the situation pans out.