A survey reveals widespread scepticism among continental academics about the level of access to European Union funding that UK researchers should have after Brexit.
According to the findings of the survey of more than 2,000 scholars worldwide, just 41 per cent of those based in the EU, outside the UK, thought that the country should still be able to take part in Horizon 2020 and its successor programme on the same basis as other EU nations. In the UK, 78 per cent of researchers supported the EU granting the UK the same access.
Only a slim majority of continental respondents, 52 per cent, supported UK universities and research institutes having any access to Horizon 2020. The corresponding figure for UK-based respondents was 87 per cent.
The widespread feeling that the UK’s access to EU research funding should be limited after Brexit was backed up by qualitative research carried out alongside the survey, which was commissioned by research data analysts Elsevier.
One scholar interviewed for the study pointed out that researchers from the EU would view it as “unfair” if the UK continued to receive a large share of funding but would not allow academics to move there so easily.
Such an arrangement would mean the “UK having the advantage to win the money but not allowing [researchers] to go there and benefit from such projects”, said the anonymous EU researcher working in the UK, who added that they did “understand the sentiment” of those wanting to restrict UK access in such circumstances.
The findings may be concerning for the UK government, which has indicated that it would like to see access to EU research funds continue despite the ending of free movement of workers being central to the UK’s negotiating position overall.
The main opinion survey, carried out for Elsevier by Ipsos Mori, found that the UK has taken a major reputational hit as a place for researchers to work: 65 per cent of all those surveyed, including those from outside the EU, felt that the UK was a less attractive place to do research since the referendum, a figure that reached 79 per cent for those working on the Continent.
Meanwhile, almost half (48 per cent) of those currently working outside the UK said that they would be less inclined to consider applying for jobs in the country, with 70 per cent of EU-based researchers agreeing with this.
For those working at UK institutions, 39 per cent said that they were already aware of EU scholars leaving their organisation, with the proportion increasing to 59 per cent when asked whether they felt that those from the EU would leave over the next five years.
The view of collaboration with other EU countries is, clearly, also being affected by Brexit, with 43 per cent of UK researchers saying that they were already aware of a decrease in requests for joint working coming from universities and research institutes on the Continent. This figure rose to 73 per cent for researchers’ view of collaboration requests over the next five years.
Researchers were also asked whether they thought that a global funding scheme for research should be set up, with more than half of all those questioned (54 per cent) supporting such an idea. Those from the UK (51 per cent) and outside the EU (56 per cent) had the highest support, while those on the Continent were slightly less in favour (46 per cent).