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United Kingdom should tell foreign scientists that it won’t force them to leave, report recommends

A parliamentary committee has warned the U.K. government that its general reassurances to U.K. researchers and European scientists working in the country are not enough and that the needs of research should be at the center of exit negotiations with the European Union. To ensure that, the new Department for Exiting the European Union, should appoint a chief scientific adviser, says the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee in a report on Brexit released today.

People and groups who provided evidence for the report voiced concerns about funding, workforce, collaboration, regulation, and facilities. A particular worry was over the status of EU researchers working in the United Kingdom and what their status would be after Brexit. “Telling EU scientists and researchers already working in the U.K. that they are allowed to stay is one way the government could reduce that uncertainty right away,” committee chair Stephen Metcalfe said in a statement. Regardless of the United Kingdom’s future policy on immigration, the report says, “researcher mobility is a crucial component of the UK’s successful research and science sector.” The government needs to go beyond its simple assertions that the United Kingdom will be “open for business,” the committee says, and “articulate an ambitious vision for science.”

With that in mind, the government should use this month’s midyear budget statement to raise spending on R&D to 3% of gross domestic product, up from its current 1.7%. “If we want to make the most of the economic opportunities that Brexit could bring, we must increase our science funding in line with key competitors like Germany and the U.S.," Metcalfe said.