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What will happen to science and research post-Brexit?

Respecting the decision of UK voters to leave the European Union (EU), it is crucial that British scientists maintain healthy and productive collaborations with our European colleagues, and continue to build the strongest science within the broader international community.

The British Pharmacological Society is proud to be a global community at the heart of pharmacology: one-fifth of our membership is international, our journals have a global readership, and we represent scientists from more than 60 countries worldwide. As part of the Society’s charitable mission to promote and advance the whole spectrum of pharmacology, we are committed to fulfilling the needs of our members regardless of geography.

Some readers may be familiar with the British Pharmacological Society’s summary of the areas of the broader pharmacological landscape connected with the EU (available from www.bps.ac.uk/europe). In the development of this resource, it became apparent that there are aspects of the relationship between the UK and EU relevant to pharmacology, such as in drug development and drug regulation, that will now prove particularly challenging and will likely take a significant amount of time to resolve fully.

The British Pharmacological Society stands ready to represent and share its members’ considerable expertise in the development of new policy. For instance, the Society was a co-sponsor for the 2016 Parliamentary Links Day, an annual half-day of discussion in Westminster, which strengthens dialogue between parliamentarians and around 200 individuals from across the scientific community. This year’s event fell on 28 June 2016 — just five days after the referendum — so the theme of ‘Science after the referendum: what next?’ could not have been more relevant. After several days of uncertainty, our members who attended were heartened by the discussions:

  • Participation by the Minister for Science Jo Johnson MP, the chair of the science and technology committee Nicola Blackwood MP and many other MPs with a track record in science was a figurative ‘vote of confidence’ by parliament on the UK as a “science superpower” that is still open for business.
  • Consensus across science and politics that protecting the UK’s access to talented individuals and research funding from across Europe was a priority in the UK’s settlement with the EU, as well as minimising the impact on industry and higher education.

For readers who were not able to participate in Links Day, I would recommend searching for scientists’ reactions to #LinksDay16 on Twitter, or reading the resulting media coverage by the BBC, Times Higher Education and Buzzfeed.

The relationship between the UK and the EU is a critical issue for science as a whole, and sharing our expertise will inform the development of sound, evidence-based policy.

In the meantime, if readers would like to get involved in the Society’s activities promoting pharmacology and drug development in policy and other domains, let us know by getting in touch with me via president@bps.ac.uk.

David Webb

President

British Pharmacological Society

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2016.20201378

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