politics, Science, Science and society

Brexit, Euratom and the future of UK science (again)

What with all the recent furore over Euratom, it seemed a good time to consider the impact of Brexit on UK science. Regarding Euratom itself, the decision to withdraw from that shocked a lot of scientists (and others): this wasn’t something that was really considered as a real possibility during the referendum campaign. Euratom occupies a somewhat unique position: it was a separate treaty negotiated in 1957, so it is legally distinct from the EU but has the same membership, and comes under many of the same institutions. One of those institutions would be the European Court of Justice, and this appears to be the sticking point for the Prime Minister: May has drawn a red line over leaving the ECJ as a condition for Brexit. I have yet to hear a convincing reason why we need to do this. To allow big business and the government to erode our human rights, as far as I can tell. So in the fallout (pun intended) from this, withdrawal from Euratom is yet another thing that was never on a ballot paper, never discussed, not planned for, and has no positives for us.

From the government’s own research briefing (PDF download available):

The UK will have to take on a number of measures to leave Euratom smoothly
such as:
• Design, resource and implement new UK safeguarding
arrangements in line with accepted international standards;
• Replace current safeguarding commitments under the Non
Proliferation Treaty (which are also predicated on Euratom
• Identify and plan negotiation of replacement Nuclear Cooperation
Agreements (NCAs) with countries with which the UK has
ongoing nuclear trade.24
As Euratom manages inspections of UK nuclear power, the UK will need
to agree new inspections with the International Atomic Energy Agency
before the UK exits the EU.

Leaving jeopardises the supply of radioisotopes for industry and medicine, the JET fusion project (pictured), supplies of nuclear material for power stations, and, oh yes, Britain’s standing as a world leader in nuclear research.

What of the wider implications for UK science? What has the EU ever done for UK science? Well, a lot. Below follows an edited re-post of a blog I published shortly after the referendum. Continue reading


Perception versus reality: the refugee crisis

There’s been an awful lot of talk thrown around lately about fake news, people living in “Facebook bubbles” where they only get news that agrees with opinions they already have, etc. There is also a lot of ongoing serious analysis about how people’s perceptions differ from reality, and how easy this is to influence in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. These things affect how people vote, and the policies of their governments – but these too, can be based on false perception. So I thought I’d just link to a piece in Nature [free to read] about the refugee situation worldwide; it has a lovely clear infographic you can download and good interactive figures. This is based on as good a data as is available, and it made me realise a lot of my own perceptions were flawed. I knew already, for example, that the of numbers of refugees entering Europe from Syria was much higher than it actually was, and that most of these refugees were being absorbed by neighbouring countries like Lebanon and Turkey. I did not know this:

Refugees 1


politics, Science, Science and society

Brexit and the future of UK science

The news here in the UK has, of course, been dominated by “Brexit“, the advisory referendum vote that saw the UK populace vote by a narrow margin to leave the EU. There is absolutely no way I’m going into the politics or constitutionality of this, as many actual political commentators are far more equipped to do so, but, as a scientist, the expected effects of UK science are of great interest to me. There is an absolutely excellent blog post on this here – this is from evidence given to the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology by Dr Mike Galsworthy and Dr Rob Davidson: Scientists (and others) will be pleased to note that is therefore full of facts, data and supported evidence. It is a long but worthwhile read. I will quote from a few highlights to illustrate the main points, and then I will indulge myself and speculate a little on what my experience of the international nature of science has made me feel about large-scale political entities such as the EU. Continue reading