Britain Faces Brain Drain, Scientists Warn

LONDON, April 9 (UPI) — Britain likely faces a severe brain drain as young scientists go to other countries where research is better funded, a group of eminent scientists said Friday.

“A failure to respond to the recent funding stimuli in America, Germany and France could threaten a new brain drain of our best young graduates,” 28 fellows of Royal Society of London for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge said in a letter published in The Times of London.

U.S. President Barack Obama’s stimulus package includes more than $100 billion for science. And despite proposed federal budget freezes for three years, science funding will still increase 5.9 percent a year.

France in December increased research by $47 billion and Germany will spend an extra $16 billion on education and science by 2013.

The letter said a strong British investment in education and public and private research is vital to the country’s economic recovery. Its signers included included cosmochemistry pioneer Grenville Turner of the University of Manchester and planetary scientist Colin Pillinger of the Open University, the principal investigator for the British Beagle 2 Mars lander project.

The scientists said that while the ruling Labor Party deserved credit for effectively doubling the spending on scientific and medical research in the past decade, neither the Labor, Conservative or Liberal Democrat parties had committed to maintaining funding beyond Britain’s general election May 6.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling, a Labor politician, announced cuts of more than $900 million in university and research budgets.

Conservative Adam Afriyie, shadow Minister of State for Science and Innovation, said major science budget cuts were “inevitable” regardless of which party wins the election, the Times reported.

The Royal Society letter echoed a prediction two months ago from members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Academy of Sciences that Britain would face a brain drain of scientific talent to the United States if the next government cuts the research budget to contain its $274 billion national debt.

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