MPs and scientists meet at parliament to discuss science after the referendum

11 July 2016

MPs, scientists and speakers from the learned societies discussed “Science After the Referendum: What Next?” at a day in Westminster to bring scientists and parliamentarians together.

MPs and scientists meet at parliament to discuss science after the referendum

The annual event on 28 June was organised by the Royal Society of Biology on behalf of the science community, including the IOP. Taking place just four days after the referendum result was announced, it attracted nearly 300 MPs, scientists and policymakers.

These included Jo Johnson, minister for universities and science, Nicola Blackwood MP, chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee and the IOP’s former president, Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, in her capacity as president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

The Speaker John Bercow MP introduced the day and there were keynote addresses from Lord O’Neill of Gatley, commercial secretary to the Treasury, and Professor Alex Halliday, vice-president of the Royal Society.

Johnson sought to reassure the science community that current students from EU countries and candidates applying this autumn would continue to have access to student loans, that the legal status of EU students and workers was unchanged and that Horizon 2020 funding (from the EU) would continue to flow in the current period. He said the government had championed British science and would continue to do so.

“The message is British science and innovation will endure and now more than ever we have to continue to focus on what it is that makes British science truly world-class,” he said.

Blackwood also backed a continuing campaign to pursue higher government investment in science in the long term. She said: “We have to shout loudly to ensure that the interests of the British science community are front and centre as this process unfolds. We have to send the message that Britain is open for business and remains a science superpower.”

Commenting on the day, the IOP’s head of policy, Alex Connor, said: “These issues are much bigger than science. But they are issues that will have a huge impact on UK science and the benefits to the economy and society that it brings. It is vitally important that the science community contributes to the debate.

“Links Day was an example of the science community coming together and speaking with a common voice, and it is important as we go into the next weeks, months and years that it should continue to do so.”