People are hungry for facts to help them decide whether the UK should leave the European Union. Some facts are sorely needed around the possible impact on scientific research.
EU membership is not a requirement for an organisation to receive EU research funding. Israel is in the top 4 countries to receive such EU funding, but is neither in Europe nor the EU. The EU's Horizon 2020 research programme has a total budget of 80 billion Euros between 2014 and 2020, with dozens of non-EU countries from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe eligible for funding. The European Research Council (ERC) has a budget for 2016 of £1.3bn to fund all 28 EU countries and the 13 non-EU countries that currently participate in the ERC funding programmes. There is no basis for claiming that the UK might somehow be denied access to any of this funding should we leave a political union.
Non-EU countries eligible for funding from the EU's Horizon 2020 programme
According to the Royal Society, the European Union provided 3% of all the UK's research funding between 2007 and 2013. Given that the UK received around 14.4% of ERC funds from the most recent funding programme (FP7), we could expect around £190 million of EU science funding in 2016. All EU funding is simply a small proportion of the UK's annual EU membership fee, returned to us with conditions on how it may be spent. When the UK leaves the EU we will be able to spend more of this money on our own priorities.
Scientists from EU countries will continue to be welcome in an independent UK. Regaining control of the UK's borders does not mean closing them. We have had visa-free travel between France and the UK since 1946, nearly 50 years before the EU was created. Indeed outside the EU we will be better able to welcome scientists from the rest of the world. Currently an Indian or Australian scientist, doctor or engineer must jump through hoops to work in the UK where unskilled or low skilled workers from mainly eastern Europe are able to come and go as they please. Movement of scientists around the world is in no way dependent on the political structures of the EU, as the flow of UK trained Doctors to Australia will tell you.
A recent UNESCO Science Report revealed that for a country with 0.9% of the world’s population, the UK has 3.3% of the world’s scientific researchers who in turn produce 6.9% of global scientific output. Clearly our scientific brains punch well above their weight. There is no reason whatever for concern that this will be put at risk once we are an independent nation once more, free from a political union. There's a big world beyond the EU, and every reason to think our scientific community, like the rest of the country, will play a leading role in it once more.