The EU referendum: statement from the RAS
On 23 June there will be a referendum on UK membership of the European Union. The Royal Astronomical Society has not made any recommendation to its UK members on how to vote in the referendum.
The Society recognises that EU membership has benefits for science, including astronomy, space science and geophysics. It fosters international collaboration; the free movement of people between member states, which helps our universities and research establishments recruit the best EU scientists; and gives UK researchers the ability to draw on and lead bids for funding that supports joint projects between teams based in the UK and in other EU countries, as well as in affiliated non-EU states.
Participation in trans-national programmes also has more impact than those carried out by single countries, even if they are funded at the same level. The coordination of projects across the European continent prevents duplication of effort, and allows scientists to more effectively share resources.
EU membership, including its impact on science, has been the subject of much political scrutiny in recent months. In December last year the RAS submitted evidence to the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee inquiry into the relationship between EU membership and UK science. This highlighted examples of astronomy, space science and geophysics projects and programmes that made use of EU frameworks and funding, and expressed the concerns of many Fellows of the Society that these would be put at risk if the UK votes to leave.
If, for example, scientists in the UK were unable to access EU projects for even a short period, without a replacement framework or agreements in place, this could be immensely damaging to our research base and have a long term impact on the wider economy and society as a whole.
Irrespective of the outcome of the referendum, the Society therefore calls on the Government to give the long-term support to science that it needs, and to ensure that any adverse impacts of changes in the UK's status are mitigated.