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ESOF split over ‘free movement of scientists’ proposal

UK scientists could push for a Brexit deal that would continue to allow free movement of scientists if and when Britain leaves the UK, some research leaders have suggested. But some fear that the proposal could open science to charges of elitism.

Anne Glover, a biologist at the University of Aberdeen and the former chief scientific adviser to the president of the European Commission, told a discussion on Brexit at the ESOF meeting on July 27 that one option was to push negotiators to seek full membership of Horizon 2020 in exchange for free movement of scientists. “Its unlikely the government would wish to negotiate free movement in general,” she said. “But what if we narrow it down?”

Some participants agreed that this idea could be attractive to other EU member states, since exchange of science and engineering talent is seen as mutually beneficial. But others warned that such a deal could cement the feeling that scientists are only looking out for their own interests­—a perception that, some said, had been fed during the referendum campaign. “There is a risk that if we’re arguing for free movement of scientists alone, that comes across as elitist,” said Stephen Curry, a biologist at Imperial College London.

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