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We cannot be an island in science: 13 Nobel laureates urge UK to stay in EU

Britain EU Referendum Updated: Jun 21, 2016 14:19 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times

Britain's Professor Peter Higgs is one of 13 Nobel laureates who have written an open letter opposing Brexit.(AP file)

Thirteen British Nobel laureates in the sciences – including Peter Higgs, after whom the Higgs boson is named – on Saturday came out in support of the Remain campaign, saying the prospect of losing EU funding is a risk to British scientific research.

Both sides – Remain and Vote Leave groups – continued to pitch their cause in the campaign that is increasingly becoming personal in nature as the June 23 referendum nears. Top ministers in the David Cameron government, which supports remaining in the EU, have been targetting Brexit leaders, particularly Boris Johnson.

In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, the Nobel scientists said, “As British science Nobel Laureates, we are concerned that those commenting on science for Brexit lack experience in scientific leadership, and are putting the superb UK research endeavour in jeopardy.”

“EU decisions about scientific policy, funding and regulatory frameworks affect science the world over. On the inside, Britain has access to people and funding, and wields global scientific influence far greater than we have alone.”

“The prospect of losing EU research funding is a key risk to UK science. Brexit assertions that the Treasury will make up this shortfall are naive and complacent, given that successive governments have allowed Britain to languish well below the OECD and EU averages in its research investment as a proportion of GDP,” the letter said.

Questioning claims by the Vote Leave camp that Britain could still access funding from outside the EU, they said science thrived on the permeability of ideas and people, and flourishes in environments that pool intelligence, minimise barriers, and are open to free exchange and collaboration.

“The EU provides such an environment and scientists value it highly. That is why a recent survey in Nature showed that 83 per cent of UK scientists want Britain to stay in the EU. We may be an island, but we cannot be an island in science. Being part of the EU is good for British science and that is good for Britain,” the letter said.

Signatories to the letter are:

Dr Sydney Brenner (Laureate, Physiology or Medicine, 2002)

Sir Martin Evans (Laureate, Physiology or Medicine, 2007)

Sir Andre Geim (Laureate, Physics, 2010)

Sir John Gurdon (Laureate, Physiology or Medicine, 2012)

Professor Peter Higgs (Laureate, Physics, 2013)

Sir Tim Hunt (Laureate, Physiology or Medicine, 2001)

Dr Tomas Lindahl (Laureate, Chemistry, 2015)

Sir Kostya Novoselov (Laureate, Physics, 2010)

Sir Paul Nurse (Laureate, Physiology or Medicine, 2001)

Professor John O’Keefe (Laureate, Physiology or Medicine, 2014)

Sir Richard Roberts (Laureate, Physiology or Medicine, 1993)

Sir John Sulston (Laureate, Physiology or Medicine, 2002)

Sir John Walker (Laureate, Chemistry, 1997)