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Assurances Sought

While the Brexit vote presents a challenge to British research and innovation, seven UK academies say in a joint statement they are stepping up to keep science there at the cutting edge. The academies include the Academy of Medical Sciences, the British Academy, the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Royal Society, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Royal Irish Academy, and the Learned Society of Wales.

In a referendum last month, British voters cast their ballots to leave the European Union. While the uncoupling may take time, it's a source of uncertainty and anxiety for researchers in the UK. As GenomeWeb has reported, researchers are particularly worried about how leaving the EU will affect movement between the UK and the EU, research funding in the UK, and collaborations with EU scientists.

In their statement, though, these seven academies say "[a] bold public commitment from the Government that the UK wishes to retain and build this excellence is required to assuage any loss of confidence in UK research."

The academies seek assurances regarding the movement of researchers, commitment to collaborations, resources for research, and more. For instance, the academies note that some 15 percent of academics at British universities are from EU member states and that these researchers need to be assured that they and their families will be allowed to continue to live and work in the UK — and likewise for British researchers working in the EU. At the same, the academies point out that the UK is a net beneficiary of EU research funds and any funding gap that results from the loss of those funds also needs to be addressed.

"As the Government explores the various options for the future relationship of the UK with the EU, we urge it to do its utmost to safeguard the UK's assets in research, scholarship and innovation," they add.