England voted to leave the European Union it entered over 40 years ago.
England voted to leave the European Union the UK entered over 40 years ago. Yuri Turkov / Shutterstock.com

As the shockwaves of the morning’s news from Britain continue to spread across the Atlantic, we’re starting to learn more about the demographic makeup of voters both for and against Brexit . And one group that was greatly in favor of staying in the EU? Scientists. According to a survey by the journal Nature conducted among 907 active UK researchers before the vote, 83% wished to remain, 12% wished to exit, and 5% were unsure at the time of the poll. Of those who wished to remain, the vast majority thought a decision to leave would be either very or somewhat harmful to UK science, citing factors such as Britain’s relatively small population and the 1.4 million Euro contribution to EU makes to UK research budgets each year.

Because science is an inherently collaborative endeavor and most scientists (like academics writ large) tilt liberal in their politics, this isn’t necessarily surprising. But even as an American researcher at a remove from Brexit’s immediate implications, the decision is a worrying premonition of the effect of nativist politics on federally funded research. Elsewhere in the West, Australia’s conservative coalition government has both fought for heightened restrictions on immigration and slashed funding for the national research council (CSIRO). In our own country, Donald Trump’s views on immigation are well known, and his views on science funding are incoherent but discouraging. While these issues are by no means directly related, they’ve become part and parcel of our moment’s resurgent right-wing politics, and it’s hard not to see them as parallel veins of revolt against a modern, global community.

(If you’re interested in reading more on Brexit’s and science, The Washington Post and Scientific American offer additional perspective, including an interview with Lord Paul Drayson, Britain’s former Minister of Science.)