A confidential survey among some of the UK’s leading research universities has revealed scientists are already struggling to keep cooperation going with EU counterparts following the Brexit referendum.
The survey, conducted by The Guardian among the so called Russell Group universities, has found that multiple academics from various disciplines including engineering and natural sciences received hints from EU colleagues that their participation in joint projects is not welcome due to uncertainty about future funding.
One university, for example, described how its social scientists involved in two collaborations with Dutch universities had been told by their partners that their participation is no longer desired.
Another university claimed there was a growing amount of "definitive evidence" that EU projects are becoming less open to British scholars.
A report has emerged of an EU project officer recommending all UK partners be dropped from a research group because their share of the funding was not guaranteed.
The evidence, though, was anecdotal and The Guardian admitted that not all of the group’s 24 member universities had responded. Equally, not all of the responding universities reported problems.
The UK’s science and research sector was hugely in favour of staying in the European Union according to pre-referendum surveys. In a joint study by the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CASE) and the Engineering Professors' Council, 93 per cent of 400 respondents considered EU membership a major benefit. While the campaign Scientists for EU gathered almost 140,000 Facebook followers, the rival campaign Scientists for Britain attracted less than 2,500.
The sector has benefited from EU membership in multiple ways. While the UK has been a net contributor into the EU budget, its research and innovation sector has been a net receiver of funding. Between 2007 and 2013, UK researchers won €8.8bn in EU grants - €3.4bn more than the country sent into the research and development budget.
Disruption to collaborative research projects has been another major, concern together with problems recruiting foreign researchers and obstacles that UK scientists might face in future when accessing large European facilities.
The Russell Group, involved in the Guardian survey, is one of the major recipients of European research funding
Read more about the impact of Brexit on engineering, research and innovation in our Brexit special: