Another concern of the pro-EU lobby is the potential loss of free movement for scientists post-Brexit and its potential impact on UK science. In this respect, it is important to note that no political party, not even UKIP, have suggested that there should be a great closing of our borders to scientists from around the world. We at Scientists for Britain (SfB) fully understand the importance of researchers being able to travel freely around the globe in order to attend conferences, collaborate on projects and even take up work opportunities. We recognise that the first job for many post-doctural research assistants will be in another country to the one in which they were educated, and that researchers from other nations may wish to settle in the UK with their families in order to broaden their experience, establish contacts, access facilities and initiate longer term collaborations. There is no question that maintaining active and vibrant international collaborations is hugely beneficial to any host nation and to science as a whole, but they are in no way reliant on the political structures of the EU. History shows us that collaboration between nations has been going on for hundreds, if not thousands of years before the EU was even dreamed about, and there’s no doubt that international collaboration will become increasingly important in the future, whether or not we secure our freedom from the EU project.
In the longer term, should the UK decide to strengthen its border controls, the evidence shows that even countries with a strict points-based immigration system, such as Australia, can ensure the free flow of skilled personnel to maintain a highly productive scientific output, and to ensure that they have enough doctors, nurses, engineers etc. to support their own needs and ambitions. Indeed a recent UNESCO Science Report (Nov 2015) revealed that Australia rack up more scientific publications per head of population than the UK. Proof, if any were needed, that strong border controls do not have a detrimental impact of the science base of a nation.
Rest assured, Scientists for Britain would be amongst the first to lobby any post-Brexit government on the vital importance of welcoming scientists (and their families) from around the world (including the EU) and that they should be embraced as valued contributors to the UK science and technology sector.