The UK's universities should be put "at the heart" of formulating the strategy for the nation's exit from the European Union, according to the incoming president of the British Science Association (BSA).
Source: The University of Manchester
The UK's universities should be put "at the heart" of formulating the strategy for the nation's exit from the European Union, according to the incoming president of the British Science Association
Academics should share scientific success stories with the British public
Prof Dame Nancy Rothwell, a noted neuroscientist and vice-chancellor of the University of Manchester, also called on academics to "get out and about more" to inform the British public of the "fantastic" achievements of research at the country's universities.
Dame Nancy's remarks, which were reported in a university press release on Friday, followed a pre-referendum warning from university vice-chancellors of their “grave concerns” that a Brexit vote could jeopardise the UK’s position as a global leader of science and innovation.
They pointed out that British universities benefited from about £1 billion a year in EU research funding
. Last month, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond announced that research projects currently funded by the EU would be underwritten by the government, but only until 2020.
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Universities need to be at the heart of the UK Brexit strategy
Dame Nancy, who will take up her role as president of the BSA on Thursday, said: "Universities need to be at the heart of designing the UK's Brexit strategy and we must do more to encourage a sense of public pride in the UK's fantastic scientific achievements, stressing their importance to our economy and wider society.
“The case that universities made for EU membership prior to the recent referendum – highlighting that it helps them to do vital work to improve the health, and the economic and cultural wellbeing of the UK - did not feature prominently in the overall debate. It didn’t resonate strongly with the public compared to other issues, which concerns me greatly.
“Now the decision to leave the EU has been made, we need to be more robust in our arguments about how universities better the lives of everyone, and about the value that science brings to the nation.
UK academic funding match welcome, but the future remains uncertain
“I welcome the recent guarantee from the government to match EU research funding until 2020, but the future remains uncertain. Scientists and researchers need to get out and about more and talk about their work and how it may improve everyday life or help solve the many challenges we face.
"As well as this, they need to share their love of knowledge and discovery, and encourage the public to get involved in their research. Universities must support them to do this and stop seeing it as something to be done in their spare time.
"I think universities need to be talking about: 'How can we help? How can we help to deliver a solution that is a reasonable one not just for universities but for the UK as a society, for the UK as an economy?'
"We have lots of people who understand the issues within universities and, assuming that experts will be listened to, to some extent in the future, they can contribute, I think, to that discussion and debate.
"But I think we need to do so in a way that we say this isn't just about how Brexit needs to be for us, for universities. How does Brexit need to be for the UK in the future?"