What do scientists think about Brexit?

Britains decision to leave the EU could also affect science and research. The country is one of the major players in Europe’s research landscape. What do British scientists affiliated with the OeAW and OeAW researchers who are collaborating in projects with the UK think about Brexit? Some reactions.

Mathematikerin Marie-Therese Wolfram:

„Besorgnis und Verunsicherung“

„Britische Universitäten wie Oxford, Cambridge oder das Imperial College London sind unter den Besten Europas. Das spiegelt sich auch in ihren Drittmittelquoten wider – die EU gehört dabei zu den wichtigsten Geldgebern. Ein Wegfall dieser Fördermittel wäre gravierend. Dementsprechend groß ist die Besorgnis und die Verunsicherung vieler Kolleg/innen. Mich hat das Ergebnis des Referendums schockiert und wütend gemacht – es wirft viele berufliche als auch persönliche Fragen auf. Und selbst wenn die meisten dieser Fragen im Laufe der Austrittsverhandlungen geklärt werden, hat der wissenschaftliche Standort England für mich sehr viel an Attraktivität verloren.“

Marie-Therese Wolfram ist derzeit Projektleiterin am Johann Radon Institute for Computational and Applied Mathematics der ÖAW und Assistant Professor an der Universität Warwick.

Historian Christopher Clark:

„The EU will survive“

„The ERC has assured scholars in Britain that at present the policy and daily operation of the Council remains unchanged. And of course for the moment the UK remains a member of Europe. Some of us hope that with time a way will be found to undo this mistake. But even if the new government in London persists with the exit policy, it can be assumed that every effort will be made on both sides to maintain existing commitments and nurture the relationship between British and EU research communities. My own university, Cambridge, is already committed to this objective. Beyond that the future is impossible to discern, I'm afraid.

Great Britain is a generous, open country with broad political and intellectual horizons. Those adventurers who have placed this country in danger represent something smaller and narrower: a reawakened English nativism. They have risked the secession of Scotland, the resurgence of unrest in Northern Ireland and grievous damage to economy, finance and research. If the worst comes to the worst, they will destroy the country I have lived in since 1987. The EU will survive, but the United Kingdom may not. That is what Brexit means to me as a researcher, a citizen and a human being.“

Christopher Clark is a foreign member of the OeAW and Professor of History at the University of Cambridge.

Weltraumforscher Christian Möstl:

„Zusammenarbeiten, wie bisher“

„Gemeinsame Förderungen könnten schwieriger werden, aber Forscher/innen aus der EU sollten mit ihren Kolleg/innen aus Großbritannien genauso weiter zusammenarbeiten, wie bisher und so als gäbe es das Resultat des Referendums nicht. Sie sollten nun sogar noch enger zusammenarbeiten. Ich forsche im Bereich der Weltraum- und Astrophysik und bin derzeit an einem von der EU geförderten FP7-Projekt zur Vorhersage von Sonnenstürmen beteiligt. Das Projekt wird vom britischen Rutherford Appelton Laboratory geleitet. Der „Brexit“ betrifft uns unmittelbar, da wir ein Nachfolgeprojekt planen – und nun nicht wissen, ob das überhaupt möglich sein wird.“

Christian Möstl ist wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter am ÖAW-Institut für Weltraumforschung in Graz.

Legal scientist Vanessa Wilcox:

„The gamblers won“

„Britain was a leading beneficiary of EU funding for science and research. But the lack of a rounded debate failed to point that and other benefits of the EU out. How things will pan out now for researchers across Europe remains to be seen. On the one hand one is surprised and vexed by the number of expat votes that were lost or delayed but these would not have helped anyway. The gamblers won. There is a lot of uncertainty now. One can only follow developments closely and see what the wind blows in.“

Vanessa Wilcox is Senior Scientist at the Institute for European Tort Law of the OeAW and University Assistant at the University of Graz.

Demographer Guy Abel:

„Hope the UK can remain part of the European research community“

„I am disappointed in the result. I hope that we (the UK) can remain a significant part of the European research community whose researchers have contributed so much, for so long, to the success of British universities. Before I came to Vienna, I studied and worked at the University of Southampton where I met many colleagues, friends and housemates from the continent. Whether it is in the UK or elsewhere in Europe, it is saddening to think that future generations of British researchers might not have the same opportunities that I have had to meet so many wonderful friends and collaborators from across the EU. “

Guy Abel is a Research Scientist at OeAW’s Vienna Institute of Demography and a Professor in the School of Sociology and Political Science at Shanghai University.