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Not the Move They'd Want

Leaving the European Union would be disastrous for UK science, argue Alison Woollard and Sylvia McLain, both from Oxford University, at the Guardian.

During the recent UK election, Conservatives promised that there would be referendum on the UK's EU membership, a move that researchers have said could have consequences for UK science.

Woollard and McLain note that UK science receives some €1.6 billion in funding a year from the European Research Council — they add that's some 20 percent of ERC health research grants, despite the UK making up only 12 percent of the EU population. They add that because UK researchers win EU funds, the UK government itself spends less on research funding. It, they say, spends less than 0.5 percent of the GDP on science.

And science, they argue, drives the economy. Some estimates say that for every pound spent on science-related fields, there's a return of £4 to £7 to the wider UK economy.

"Abandoning the EU and its innovative vision for science would leave UK science insular and inward looking, lacking the international perspective and economic firepower essential to its vitality," Woollard and McLain write. "Even the impending referendum, regardless of its outcome, could destabilize the UK's position in the international scientific community, making it a less attractive prospect for partnership from other EU countries."

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