Cambridge University astrophysicist loses Esa challenge function over Brexit row | Brexit

A Cambridge University astrophysicist finding out the Milky Way and hoping to play a significant half within the European Space Agency’s (Esa) subsequent huge challenge has been pressured at hand over his coordinating function on the scheme after the row over Northern Ireland’s Brexit preparations put science within the firing line.

Nicholas Walton, a analysis fellow on the Institute of Astronomy, reluctantly handed his management function within the €2.8m pan-European Marie Curie Network analysis challenge to a colleague within the Netherlands on Friday.

The European Commission had written notifying him UK scientists can not maintain management roles as a result of the UK’s membership of the flagship £80bn Horizon Europe (HE) funding community has not been ratified.

Walton was to have led a doctoral community associated to Esa’s Gaia mission that’s mapping almost 2bn stars within the Milky Way.

He is one simply one in every of a handful of British physicists accepted for a HE grant however should now take a passenger seat in his personal challenge.

Carsten Welsch, a physicist at Liverpool University, who has gained €2.6m in funding, additionally from the Marie Curie community, for long run analysis on a novel plasma generator, can be dealing with the identical dilemma – transfer to the EU or hand over management to an EU establishment to safe the analysis function.

“As the UK’s association to Horizon Europe isn’t completed, we are now at real risk of losing our leadership in this consortium and to be marginalised.

“This is really heartbreaking, given the long and extremely successful track record in scientific collaboration between the UK and EU,” he stated.

Both Welsch and Walton say the lack of their roles within the analysis networks is simply a part of the image. With Horizon Europe comes a ringside seat in greater tasks price billions of euros involving networks of academia and business.

“The damage is already being done … our influence is eroding,” stated Welsch.

Walton’s coordinating function got here with the chance to be a part of the European crew defining the science case for the €1bn successor to Gaia, Esa’s Voyage 2050 programme and to coach a brand new cohort of astronomers.

“It is about jobs and the economy and ultimately this makes the UK a wealthier society,” he stated.

Last week the EU’s ambassador to the UK, João Vale de Almeida admitted that British science may very well be a “victim of the political impasse”.

Sir Adrian Smith, president of the Royal Society stated: “The window for association is closing fast, and we need to ensure that political issues do not get in the way of a sensible solution. We have always been very clear that association is the preferred outcome for protecting decades of collaborative research, and the benefits this has brought to people’s lives across the continent and beyond.”

Welsch is contemplating his choices and stated a suggestion by the UK to step in with alternate funding is “fantastic in principle”.

But he says it’s not a substitute.

“While the UK Research and Innovation guarantee fund provides vital financial support and allows UK institutions to contribute as Associated Partners (without EU funding), it means that UK institutions can no longer lead projects, can no longer be in charge of project milestones, and overall it feels as if the UK is losing important leadership.”

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