Nobel laureates call on UK not to isolate itself from research world

CaSE has organised a letter published in yesterday’s Times newspaper opposing the government’s proposed cap on non-EU migrants, signed by eight Nobel laureates including the two Russian migrants who won the Nobel Prize for Physics this week, Professor Andrew Geim and Professor Konstantin Novoselov. The letter received excellent coverage on the front page of the paper, as well as receiving further exposure in the paper’s leader, which called on the UK to maintain its excellence in scientific research, and a case study.

The story also received coverage during Thursday’s edition of Question Time when an audience member asked the panel what sort of immigration policy allows footballers into the UK but not scientists and was met with rapturous applause.

As CaSE Director Imran Khan pointed  in the previous day’s Times, the success of foreign scientists like Professor Geim and Professor Novoselov “could be among the last of their kind if the Government presses ahead with its plans to slash investment in science  and block talented non-EU migrants from coming here”.


The UK has long had a reputation as a global centre of research excellence. It is not only our world-class institutions, but also our inclusive culture which has attracted the world’s best scientists to come and work here.

Nobel prize-winners in science — from America’s James Watson and Germany’s Hans Krebs in years past, to India’s Venki Ramakrishnan and Russia’s Andre Geim (a signatory to this letter) in the past twelve months — have been enriching and enhancing British science and society for decades. They add to our store of knowledge, and inspire countless young researchers to follow in their footsteps.

These benefits are jeopardised by the Government’s plan to cap migration to the UK. It would damage our ability to recruit the brightest young talent, as well as distinguished scientists, into our universities and industries. International collaborations underlie 40 per cent of the UK’s scientific output, but would become far more difficult if we were to constrict our borders. The UK produces nearly 10 per cent of the world’s scientific output with only 1 per cent of its population; we punch above our weight because we can engage with excellence wherever it occurs.

The UK must not isolate itself from the increasingly globalised world of research — British science depends on it. The Government has seen fit to introduce an exception to the rules for Premier League footballers. It is a sad reflection of our priorities as a nation if we cannot afford the same recognition for elite scientists and engineers.

Sir Paul Nurse
Nobel Prize for Medicine, 2001

Sir Martin Evans
Nobel Prize for Medicine, 2007

Andre Geim
Nobel Prize for Physics, 2010

Sir Tim Hunt
Nobel Prize for Medicine, 2001

Sir Harry Kroto
Nobel Prize for Chemistry, 1996

Konstantin Novoselov
Nobel Prize for Physics, 2010

Sir John Sulston
Nobel Prize for Medicine, 2002

Sir John Walker
Nobel Prize for Chemistry, 1997

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