Consequences of Brexit on mathematics

[Posted on june 30, 2016]

Like many observers, I have been quite stunned by the result. So, even though I have no legitimaticy for this (as I’m not an academic — I do have a british PhD but to some Leavers this is a bias), I’m posting this to gather opinions on possible impacts of Brexit on mathematics : both straightforward ones and chain reactions. I’d like in particular to explore how to mitigate the effects of the negative ones.

For general issues beyond mathematics there are several relevant articles in the THES : on EU grant application, (and that earlier one) and on non-british students and academics. (Edit 02 july: see also these frightening figures for Cambridge alone). As yet, Article 50 has not been triggered, so what follows only makes sense under the hypothesis that at some point before the end of the year it will.

1) Clearly one specific issue for mathematics is the health and standing of the UK math departments :

1.a) what is the share of EU-funded Postdocs and Postgraduates students there ? In particular what are the numbers in the very select places like Cambridge, Oxford, Imperial, Warwick… ?

1.b) what is the annual share of EU-funded conferences ?

How to mitigate a potentially complete stop to both funding and free movement ? Might a form of dual diplomas and dual conference system work (systematically coupling things with an EU partner that has funding)  ?

2) One possible ripple effect is the movement of academics to nearby EU countries (or Switzerland) to follow that pool of students and postdocs :

2.a) which continental places would likely benefit, and would they actively try to lure away UK-based mathematicians ?

2.b) what about the US and Canada, is brexit seen as an opportunity there to recruit UK-based mathematicians ?

3) Are there specific mathematics-related issues not mentioned above ?

(Note: the comments to this post will go to the moderation queue, which I can review about twice a day usually).

Brexit logo by swissbert on flickr

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