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Brexit Woes Affecting Science Funding

Uncertainty over Brexit has adversely affected the UK research community, BBC News reports. A new analysis by the Royal Society shows that Britain's annual share of EU research funding has fallen by nearly a third since 2015, and that the number of scientists coming to work in the UK through the EU has dropped 35 percent. 

Royal Society President Venki Ramakrishnan tells the BBC that scientists "do not want to gamble with their careers when they have no sense of whether the UK will be willing and able to maintain its global scientific leadership."

He notes that UK science has missed out on around £440 million ($565.8 million) a year because of the uncertainty around Brexit. UK researchers report that they were frozen out of new Horizon 2020 grant applications.

Data from EU databases show the UK's share of funding fell from 16 percent of Horizon 2020 funding in 2015 to a little more than 11 percent in 2018, the BBC says. And the number of UK applications to Horizon 2020 fell nearly 40 percent over the same period.

Further, fewer researchers from other European countries are choosing to work in the UK. In 2015, about 515 scientists took advantage of a fellowship offered in the EU to work in UK institutions. In 2018, this fell to 336, the BBC says. Over the same period, the number of fellowships helping scientists relocate to labs in Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, and Ireland saw increases.

Chi Onwurah, the Shadow Minister for Industrial Strategy, Science, and Innovation tells the BBC that the British government is "wilfully sacrificing scientific progress on the altar of ideology," adding, "No Deal would be total disaster for science, but the rumoured proposals being cobbled together would still leave us at a significant disadvantage. We need a deal that maintains regulatory alignment, supports collaborative funding bids on major projects, and that means the UK welcomes researchers rather than putting up barriers."