Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Will the Right-Wing Kill CERN and European Science?

The rise of the anti-European right-wing parties poses a major threat to European scientific collaborations according to this article.

Politics has become a strange place. In this week's European Parliament elections, many right-wing parties, some of them extreme, are forecast to do well. It is likely that, for the first time, the elected body of the European Union will be stuffed to the gunnels with people who would rather it didn't exist at all.

Prominent among them is Nigel Farage, leader of the U.K. Independence Party. Already a member of the European Parliament, Farage's main aim is to get Britain out of the European Union. Its freedom of movement rules have caused an influx of migrant workers, which has served as the backdrop to UKIP's rise. While Britain remains within the E.U., it is impossible to stem this "tide," Farage says, and withdrawal is the only solution.

While political scientists watch this narrative unfold with fascination, natural scientists in the United Kingdom should do so with alarm; Farage could be a disaster for them.

That's because we have a lot to lose. In global terms, the U.K. punches above its weight in science. Although our population makes up just 1 percent of the global total, scientists here publish 16 percent of the world's most-cited research papers. E.U. policy is to “encourage the highest quality research in Europe through competitive funding ... on the basis of scientific excellence.” This means that British scientists get a disproportionate amount of money. For every pound contributed to the research pot, Britain gets approximately 1.40 pounds back.

Switzerland is apparently already feeling some impact from its own withdrawal from associate membership.