He said the situation was “business as usual”

Well, this seems like one unmistakably bad result of Brexit – UK scientists are being pushed out of projects because of worries about funding.

In a confidential survey of the UK’s Russell Group universities, the Guardian found cases of British academics being asked to leave EU-funded projects or to step down from leadership roles because they are considered a financial liability.

In one case, an EU project officer recommended that a lead investigator drop all UK partners from a consortium because Britain’s share of funding could not be guaranteed. The note implied that if UK organisations remained on the project, which is due to start in January 2017, the contract signing would be delayed until Britain had agreed a fresh deal with Europe.

In other words Brexit has slapped a huge handicap on UK scientists who want to collaborate with European colleagues.

Incidents reported by the universities suggest that researchers across the natural sciences, the engineering disciplines and social sciences are all affected. At least two social science collaborations with Dutch universities have been told UK partners are unwelcome, one Russell Group university said in the survey.

Speaking at Oxford’s Wolfson College last Friday, the university’s chancellor, Chris Patten, said Oxford received perhaps more research income than any European university, with about 40% coming from government. “Our research income will of course fall significantly after we have left the EU unless a Brexit government guarantees to cover the shortfall,” Lord Patten said.

The uncertainty over future funding for projects stands to harm research in other ways, the survey suggests. A number of institutions that responded said some researchers were reluctant to carry on with bids for EU funds because of the financial unknowns, while others did not want to be the weak link in a consortium. One university said it had serious concerns about its ability to recruit research fellows for current projects.

Yeah but at least they told Poland a thing or two, right? That’s worth all the tsuris, right?

A week after the referendum, science minister Jo Johnson told academics and industry figures he had raised concerns over potential discrimination against UK researchers with the EU science commissioner, Carlos Moedas. Johnson has asked a team at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to gather evidence for discrimination and urged organisations to report any incidents. Until the UK left the EU, he said the situation was “business as usual”.

Others see it differently. Joe Gorman, a senior scientist at Sintef, Norway’s leading research institute, said he believed UK industry and universities would see “a fairly drastic and immediate reduction in the number of invitations to join consortiums”.

Only 12% of bids for Horizon 2020 funds are successful, a rate that falls by more than half in highly competitive areas. Given the low probability of winning funds at the best of times, Gorman said it was natural risk aversion to be cautious of UK partners. In many cases, British organisations will not have a clue they have lost out. “If you don’t get invited to the party, you don’t even know there is a party,” he said.

It seems very clueless to me to call it “discrimination.” It’s not “ewwww, they’re British, they have cooties,” it’s a consequence of Brexit and its implications for funding.

“I strongly suspect that UK politicians simply don’t understand this, and think it is ‘business as usual’, at least until negotiations have been completed. They are wrong, the problems start right now,” he added. As a former European commission official, Gorman oversaw research projects and now advises universities and companies on how to succeed in EU-funded research programmes.

It’s almost as if complicated technical issues shouldn’t be decided by referendum.

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