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The home front

Scientists must lobby for both EU and domestic funding, says Sarah Richardson in this week’s Research Fortnight leader.

Delivering his first major speech as science minister last week in Oxfordshire, Chris Skidmore was notably effusive about his surroundings. “What could be a better place to give my first speech on science, research and innovation?” he beamed, against the backdrop of the Culham nuclear fusion facility. But while the setting may have been nearly perfect, the timing was far from it. Skidmore’s attempt to make his mark comes as the future of UK science is heavily at the mercy of events beyond any minister’s control. Culham’s crowning glory is the Joint European Torus, itself in limbo due to Brexit.

Skidmore’s priorities, securing “the right relationship” with European research programmes after Brexit, and developing an economy that invests more in science, research and innovation, will draw no argument from researchers. But what may raise eyebrows is his view that some may dismiss any focus on wider investment in research—pinned to the government’s target of increasing R&D spending to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027—as a “distraction from Brexit”.

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