Both the UK and Switzerland have lost access to the Europe-wide scientific research programme known as Horizon Europe. The UK dropped out when it left the EU and Switzerland when its bilateral talks with the EU broke down last year.
The programme supports big projects that would not be possible at a national level. More is more when it comes to making progress in many areas of scientific progress.
In a bid to mend the cracks in European scientific research EPFL in Lausanne and ETH in Zurich have joined a campaign started by a group of UK universities called “Stick to Science“, which aims to convince the EU that scientific collaboration should be above politics, reported RTS.
Part of the campaign involves a petition. The movement invites the European scientific community to sign the petition online. The organisers argue that the current fragmented situation prevents researchers working together to improve global problems such as climate change, pandemics and food security.
The signatories urge the EU, the UK and Switzerland to reach association agreements so that the two countries can contribute scientifically and financially to the strength of Horizon Europe and to a truly open, inclusive and excellence-driven European Research Area.
If let back in, the UK and Switzerland together would boost funding of the programme by CHF 19 billion, representing around 18% of the programme’s funding, according to the organising committee.
So far 250 leading scientists have signed the petition, including at least 12 Nobel prize winners, entrepreneurs and university leaders.
Didier Queloz, who won the 2019 Nobel prize for physics, said we must find a solution to the deadlock. It is not in anyone’s interest to prevent scientific collaboration at a European level, he told RTS. Scientific research should not be subjected to political quarrelling, in his view. Politics needs to be more focused on the future, rather than following its tendency to fixate on the short term, he said.
Queloz would like to see science removed from European agreements and no longer used as an instrument of political haggling. Meddling with science messes with the success of Europe over the long term, he argues. Excluding Switzerland will deprive Switzerland and Europe of talent, according to the physicist.
ETH President Joël Mesot, said that today more than ever, solving global problems requires collaboration. Science wants to and should play a role in, for example, preventing future pandemics or mitigating the effects of climate change. Switzerland and the UK are scientific heavyweights that are being denied full access to Horizon Europe for political reasons. With this initiative, we want to draw attention to the fact that this state of affairs is not in Switzerland’s or Europe’s best interest. And this view is shared by universities, research institutions and scientific networks all over Europe, he said.
According to Mesot, Switzerland has a good network important contacts in the US and Asia. However, these contacts cannot replace our connections to the European research community. Projects such as solutions for smart and stable grids in a CO2-free energy economy are things we won’t develop primarily with Asia, but rather with Europe, he said.
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