President co-signs letter on immigration

11 November 2011

Organised by the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE), a letter has been published in today’s Times, co-signed by the President of the Institute of Physics (IOP), Professor Sir Peter Knight, among 20 dignitaries, criticising the Government’s immigration reforms:

Institute of Physics News

The UK provides the best “bang for buck” of any G8 nation when it comes to research — we must not damage that position

Sir, A year ago this page carried a letter from eight Nobel prize-winning researchers, explaining how curbs on immigration could damage the UK’s science and engineering excellence. The Government listened at the time, but now appears to have forgotten the warning.

The Government is proposing to end the right of migrants to settle in the UK, effectively forcing the vast majority to leave the country after five years. This policy would be a profound mistake, jeopardising our position as a hub for the world’s finest scientists and engineers.

A recent report for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills noted that the UK provides the best “bang for buck” of any G8 nation when it comes to research, while the economic and social benefits are immense and visible everywhere.

This eminence relies on a global outlook. Nearly half of all UK researchers collaborate with overseas colleagues, while migrant scientists such as Andre Geim, Konstantin Novoselov and Venki Ramakrishnan have all won Nobel prizes while working in British labs.

When the best international researchers decide where to work they will consider the prospects for their careers and families. If they cannot be confident of a stay longer than five years — barely long enough to supervise a PhD, let alone a major research programme — then we will be ruled out as a destination.

Let us be clear; the UK needs these people more than they need us. Moreover, if we are trying to improve links with nations such as China and India, the worst possible way to start is by turning their best minds away from our doorstep. The Government must decide how much it values our scientific prosperity.

  • Dr Stephen Bold, Managing Director, Sharp Laboratories of Europe Ltd
  • David Brown, Chief Executive, Institution of Chemical Engineers
  • Mark Downs, Chief Executive, Society of Biology
  • Nigel Gaymond, Chief Executive, Bioindustry Association
  • Professor Ray Hill, President, British Pharmacological Society
  • Professor Sophien Kamoun, Head of the Sainsbury Laboratory
  • Imran Khan, Director, Campaign for Science and Engineering
  • Sir Peter Knight, President, Institute of Physics
  • Lord May of Oxford, Former President of the Royal Society, former Government Chief Scientific Adviser
  • David Phillips, President, Royal Society of Chemistry
  • Professor Baron Piot, Director, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
  • Professor David Price, Vice Provost (Research), UCL
  • Lord Rees of Ludlow, Former President of the Royal Society
  • Professor Mike Spyer, President, the Physiological Society
  • Mark Stewart, Human Resources Director, Airbus UK
  • Professor Eric Thomas, President, Universities UK
  • Sir Mark Walport, Director, Wellcome Trust
  • Stephen Whitehead, Chief Executive, Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry
  • Lord Willis of Knaresborough, Chair, Association of Medical Research Charities

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