Following anecdotes of British scientists being axed from EU-funded projects, one academic has revealed actual evidence of UK boffins being dumped from Euro research efforts in the Brexit aftermath.
Paul Crowther, interim head of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Sheffield, today leaked an email confirming colleagues in his department were thrown out of an EU research consortium as a result of Britain's referendum outcome.
The memo cited the main reason for the dismissal as "the Brexit" and "all the incertitude it brings." It was sent by the coordinators of the EU group, which has not been named. The message reads:
I regret to inform you that in the end we decided to not include your group in the consortium. The main reason of this decision concerns the Brexit and all the incertitude it brings. It may seem a decision very drastic (at least this is my feeling), but this is the outcome of the discussions I had with [redacted] and [redacted] (my group leader here in [redacted]). We finally decided to 'remove' the problem at the base.
Anyway, I really hope that this is not a 'goodbye' but a 'see you soon.' As soon as the rules will be clear (hopefully asap) we will have again occasions to work together, eventually on this subject of [redacted] ... Of course I know very well the value of your work and more generally of the research group you work in. It is my interest to work with people like you. I hope in the future to come back with better news.
The email was sent on 21 July – almost a month after the EU referendum took place.
The EU consortium involved is a so-called innovative training network – a type of multinational project that aims to fund researchers to experience and collaborate in different sectors. The project is bankrolled by the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions, which takes €6.2bn out of the EU's main funding programme, Horizon 2020, that controls €74.8bn.
European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation Carlos Moedas has tried to reassure UK researchers that they are eligible to access EU funding up until Blighty formally leaves the EU. In a Times Higher Education article, Moedas said: "As long as the UK is a member of the European Union, EU law continues to apply and the UK retains all rights and obligations of a member state."
But, in an Institute of Physics blog post on Friday, Crowther said the email contrasted with what Moedas said at last week's EuroScience Open Forum.
Moedas is quoted as saying: "Horizon 2020 projects will continue to be evaluated based on merit and not on nationality. So I urge the European scientific community to continue to choose their project partners on the basis of excellence."
The UK government is launching a formal investigation into the discrimination faced by UK researchers trying to secure EU funding. The universities and science minister Jo Johnson has set up an email address – firstname.lastname@example.org – to receive any evidence. ®