‘Eurofog’ of claim and counterclaim on EU membership and UK science

science researchGraeme Reid, Professor of Science and Research Policy at UCL, recently advised a House of Lords inquiry on the impact of EU membership on UK  science and research. In this post, he discusses the inquiry’s main findings, both expected and unexpected. He also joins a high-level panel to discuss the topic at the UCL European Institute on 12 May 2016.

The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee published its report on EU membership and UK science after months of evidence gathering and analysis. I was specialist advisor to the Committee during the inquiry.

The Committee made no attempt to reach a view of the wider question of whether the UK should remain a member of the EU. It focused exclusively on the science and research dimension of the EU debate. That said, the overwhelming balance of evidence supported continued membership of the EU. That reflected the practical experiences of a wide population of scientists and researchers. Continue reading

Debating the EU at Universities: A Response to Menon

university-libraryWhat kind of debate on EU membership should we have at a university? Professor Jan Kubik, Director of the UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies, replies to Anand Menon who has criticised Universities UK for taking sides against a UK exit from the EU. Kubik calls for contestation, but also for broadening the debate beyond narrow economic concerns. Universities, above all, he argues, should be places where such (critical) consideration of material interests is counterbalanced by a thoughtful examination of ideals.

Universities UK, an organisation created by the leaders of British universities, has taken a strong stance against Brexit. Professor Menon is right in worrying that ‘by taking such a clear stand on such a hotly debated political issue, universities may make it harder for their staff to foster precisely those sorts of debates that universities are meant to encourage‘. Such a ‘clear stand’, taken de facto by the top academic brass (at least so far), may stifle the debate, as ‘average’ academics will fear arguing against their ‘bosses’.

Menon then analyses briefly an argument for and against Brexit, from the point of view of British universities’ interests. The argument, important though it is, focuses exclusively on the material components. At the moment, EU research funding is very beneficial for British Universities (still regarded as the best in Europe), but – Menon argues – there may be ways to reconfigure this financing after the exit, without too much loss. Continue reading

Europe and Research Excellence in the UK

Professor Dame Julia Goodfellow, University of Kent Vice Chancellor, examines the role of EU research collaboration and funding in sustaining and fostering research excellence in the UK.

The recent results of the Research Excellence Framework (REF), a national review of research across all disciplines and all Universities that takes place about every 6 years, have once again demonstrated the strength of research in the UK with 30% of submissions judged to be world leading. Moreover, this time it not only took account of high quality outputs (books, journal articles, patents and so on) but also the economic, social and cultural impact that stems from high quality research.

Following a visit to the University of Ghent, one of the University of Kent’s international strategic partners, I have been reflecting on the relationship between research excellence and the European dimension to research funding and collaboration.

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