Stephen Hawking and more than 150 academics in the scientific community have called on Britain to stay in the European Union (EU) over fears that leaving would be a ‘disaster’ for UK science.
The group, Fellows of the Royal Society, of which Hawking is a member, expressed their concern about the consequences of a British exit from the EU in a letter to The Times.
They put forward a number of arguments laying out their position with regards to EU membership and science.
The society says that leaving will affect research, making it more difficult to recruit young, talented scientists.
Britain recruits some of its most prominent researchers from continental Europe, many of whom move here after obtaining EU science grants. Ending free movement would make Britain a less attractive destination they claim.
A Brexit could also threaten the UK's participation in the EU science programme and associated multinational collaborations and talent exchanges.
Some countries, such as Switzerland, buy into the EU programme but this is a negotiated agreement, not an entitlement. Since Switzerland voted to end free movement it has also struggled to attract young talent, the Society said.
“Increased funding has raised greatly the level of European science as a whole and of the UK in particular because we have a competitive edge,” they wrote.
In addition, voting to leave the EU would end the UK's input in EU science policy, including decisions on patient data, clinical trials, stem cell research and climate change.
While Britain's views would not be represented, it is likely it would have to adopt the changes in order to work across borders effectively, the letter claims.
However, supporters of a Brexit remain in the scientific community, such as the prominent campaign group Scientists for Britain, claim that the EU is actually bad for the future of UK science.
They argue that the UK is a key contributor to EU science funds, which provides money to researchers. If Britain leaves the union, it would mean it could spend more of its own money on funding UK science directly.
The bureaucratic systems in place are also hampering efforts by the UK scientific community to stay on the cutting edge of science research and limiting innovation in the sector.
Last week, Siemens and BMW said that a British exit from the EU would be damaging to the future of the UK’s technology and manufacturing sectors and were concerned about the impact it would have upon their own businesses.