A new report out today highlights the benefits that working with international partners brings to immunology in the UK. The report by the British Society for Immunology makes key recommendations for Government and others to ensure that this country remains at the forefront of immunological research now and in the future.
Immunology, the study of the immune system, is one of the UK’s great scientific strengths – we are ranked first amongst the G7 countries for the quality of our research in infection and immunology.1 Scientific advances in immunology in the UK, while bringing about new diagnostics and therapeutics to tackle some of the world’s most critical health challenges, also contribute substantial economic benefits to this country.
The report focuses on key areas that affect the quality and quantity of UK immunological research and highlights the global nature of immunology’s impact:
- Immigration: UK immunology benefits from being able to attract the best and the brightest scientists from around the world.
- Funding: International funding supports world-class UK research.
- Collaboration: Our immunologists partner with excellence from around the world to increase the quality and efficiency of our research base.
- Data sharing: The UK is leading the big data revolution to fuel our understanding of fundamental immunology and provide more targeted and effective diagnoses.
- Immunology as a global public good: Great science conducted in the UK can and does have profound effects on global health including tackling emerging infections.
The report makes five recommendations for steps the Government and others could take to ensure the UK remains at the forefront of immunological research:
- The Government should ensure that UK scientific institutions are the most attractive in the world to work for and that they can employ the best scientists, regardless of nationality. The visa process for scientists should be simplified, making it clear to the international scientific community that the UK welcome overseas talent.
- Access to bespoke international funding schemes for immunology should be maintained and expanded, with the UK’s planned Presidency of the EU in 2017 representing an opportunity to maximise this funding and unlock further resources to expand and accelerate treatments for conditions such as cancer and autoimmune diseases.
- Research councils and government agencies should continue to champion the export of multinational partnerships in immunology to emerging knowledge powerhouses.
- To keep the UK at the forefront of data-driven science, the Government, universities and senior immunologists should ensure the next generation of scientists are equipped with the skills required to exploit new data-driven technologies.
- The Government should capitalise on the UK’s status as a world leader in immunological research and take a lead in mobilising international action on global health issues, making these issues a priority item for discussion at international political summits.
Professor Peter Openshaw, President of the British Society for Immunology, said:
“Immunology is an international pursuit. It is only through global collaboration, working with talented scientists from across the world, that we have witnessed the enormous levels of innovation that have brought online new diagnostics and treatments for some of the major global health challenges that we face today.
“With the crucial EU referendum vote only a couple of weeks away, it’s vital that we ensure this international, intricately-linked community of researchers can continue to flourish now and in the future. By recognising and supporting the international nature of scientific endeavour, we not only support the UK’s position as a world leader in immunology, but also promote the future economic success of the UK science sector.”
Dr Matthias Eberl is a German national who has worked in Germany and Switzerland before setting up his own lab in the UK at Cardiff University.
Dr Matthias Eberl said:
“Working and living in a different country is of course challenging but I have always felt welcome and appreciated by my colleagues and the wider community. However, current policy makes it very difficult for some scientists to come to the UK for work or study and I believe we are losing out significantly by not being able to mobilise the full potential of available skills. Science is a prime example of a truly international endeavour and there should be a clear acknowledgement that highly skilled specialists from abroad are absolutely essential for the UK to stay competitive in a globalised world.”
Notes for editors
This full report ‘Immunology: an international, life-saving science’ can be accessed via the British Society for Immunology website.
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1. All Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health 2015 The UK’s contribution to health globally: benefitting the country and the world.