Impact Post Brexit

What do I do now that we’re looking at leaving the EU?

In short: press on.

The referendum last Thursday will undoubtedly have long lasting repercussions on everyone in the UK no matter which way they voted.

What does this mean for research funding?

We know that “British universities currently gain about £1.2 billion a year and benefit from networks of international researchers” and that “[c]ollectively, the EU remains the world leader in terms of its global share of science researchers (22.2%), ahead of China (19.1%) and the US (16.7%),” so it seems fair to be concerned about the role that UK research will play going forward. How will research funding be impacted by the vote to leave the EU?

At the moment, it is business as usual. In a statement published on Monday, Jo Johnson (Minister of State for Universities and Science) wrote the following:

The referendum result has no immediate effect on those applying to or participating in Horizon 2020. UK participants can continue to apply to the programme in the usual way. The future of UK access to European science funding will be a matter for future discussions. Government is determined to ensure that the UK continues to play a leading role in European and international research.

Also, ERASMUS+ published the following on their website:

There is no immediate change to the UK’s participation in the Erasmus+ programme following the EU referendum result and the UK National Agency will continue to manage and deliver the programme across the UK.

All participants and beneficiaries should continue with their Erasmus+ funded activities and preparation for the published application deadlines in 2016 and 2017.

Middlesex University’s Vice-Chancellor, Tim Blackman, has told us that

The UK’s decision to leave the European Union will pose challenges for universities, but the result does not mean any immediate material change to the UK university sector’s participation in EU programmes such as Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+.

So… business as usual.

However, despite reassurances, we are starting to see researchers around the UK beginning to wonder what happens in two years and how those changes will be reflected in the funding landscape. There is uncertainty in what this new landscape will look like and this is being reflected informally, in conversations and across social media:

However, these informal channels are ways that we express frustration with uncertainty and should not be representative of any concrete plans moving forward. Instead, let us focus on certainties.

We know that the best research happens in collaboration. That networks need to be maintained and encouraged across cities, regions, and nations. We know that, now more than ever, we need to reassure (and be reassured in turn) our partners that we are committed to excellent research and the resultant impact. Impact, as well as research, relies on collaboration and cooperation; impact will not happen in a vacuum. We need to pursue opportunities to engage with the best people and groups, no matter from what corner of the earth they hail.

We also know that there is a disjunct between the research(ers) in the UK and the non-academic general population. Whether you see this disjunct as the inevitable result of university culture itself being at odds with the priorities of the British public, the consequence of academics holding themselves at arm’s length from the public through elitist attitudes of moral disdain, or a public that needs more information to clearly understand the role that research plays in policy, academia, and everyday lives.

We know that “people in this country” have “had enough of experts” (Michael Gove); expertise has been so derided, in fact, that it becomes clear that there is a miscommunication between the experts and the public. This miscommunication is obvious in statements like the following:

So, how to repair this rupture between academics and the public?

In short: press on.

There are no easy answers to these questions, but we must remember that there is as much value in communicating research as there is in research itself.

Impact is intended to demonstrate value for money with regards to research. It is intended to bridge divides and benefit people. So, we carry on with our impact, and we recognize the need to be open and transparent in our dealings. We need to build relationships and maintain them, no matter what happens in the future.

Of course, there is always some humour to had…

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