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South Wales Group: using social media to hightlight the internationalism of research

Immunological research does not stop at borders. Fighting HIV, Ebola and multidrug resistance is a truly global endeavour, similarly as novel approaches to diagnose, treat and prevent autoimmunity, chronic inflammation and cancer. The BSI South Wales Immunology Group believes that it is of vital interest for the scientific community to have access to international funding and facilities, to be embedded in collaborative networks with the best experts in their fields and to be able to influence national and international policies. In this respect, the European Union has played a crucial role in fostering cutting-edge science in the UK.

Threat to European funding

Cardiff researchers working in infection and immunity for instance have been highly successful in obtaining funding from the EU, ranging from incoming Marie Curie fellowships and ERC grants to active participation in EU-wide networks such as EPAD (European Prevention of Alzheimer’s Dementia Consortium), EE-ASI (Enhanced Epidermal Antigen-Specific Immunotherapy Against Type 1 Diabetes), EuTRiPD (European Training & Research in Peritoneal Dialysis), TINN2 (Treat Infections in Neonates 2), COMBACTE-CARE (Combatting Bacterial Resistance in Europe – Carbapenem Resistance) and R-GNOSIS (Resistance in Gram-Negative Organisms: Studying Intervention Strategies).  These international consortia aim at tackling some of the biggest challenges to public health, by using state-of-the-art technologies and providing access to well-defined patient cohorts and outstanding training environments.

As a scientific community we currently have a unique chance to influence the agenda during the Brexit negotiations and highlight areas of particular importance and relevance to us.

There is an imminent threat of jeopardising access to EU funding, with UK scientists already experiencing problems with EU consortia and Horizon 2020 applications. These increasing difficulties combined with the likely restrictions of free movement of students and staff to and from EU countries and the tightened visa regulations for workers from overseas will have profound consequences for the scientific landscape in the UK and beyond.

The BSI South Wales Immunology group is therefore campaigning to emphasise the international nature of science and to celebrate the diversity of researchers working in the UK, in support of the BSI’s own ‘Internationalism of Immunology’ report and inspired by activities by the Academy of Medical Sciences, the Royal Society, the actions of >100 university VCs across the UK, and groupings such as Scientists for EU.

Power of social media

Some of the photos posted on our social media channels have already been re-tweeted up to 75 times – including by the local MP for Cardiff Central (with our top tweet earning 12,000 impressions within a week), and have had more than 200 shares and 700 likes on Facebook after being shared by Scientists for EU.

While the great majority of local researchers and also members of the public have expressed their support of our campaign, Brexit of course is one of the most controversial topics of our generation and the divide of the country can easily be felt by feedback like “You talk some nonsense” and harsh discussions between leavers and remainers in the comments sections.

Have your say

This is a time of risks and worries with regard to funding, collaborations and recruitment but there may also be new opportunities. As a scientific community we currently have a unique chance to influence the agenda during the Brexit negotiations and highlight areas of particular importance and relevance to us. So please be pro-active and voice your concerns, wishes and ideas by contacting the BSI, by submitting evidence to the Science and Technology Committee of the House of Commons, and by helping to monitor the impact of the Brexit vote on UK science.

Matthias Eberl
South Wales Immunology Group

South Wales Immunology Group

You can visit the South Wales Immunology Group page on our website and follow them on facebook and twitter.