Pandemic ‘threatens research as early career scientists look to leave'

Medical research charities warn there is a risk of a UK brain drain as funding issues create uncertainty in the sector.

The coronavirus pandemic is threatening the future of research as early career scientists look to leave the profession, charities have warned.

Medical research charities say there is a risk of a UK brain drain as the Covid-19 funding crisis plunges the sector into uncertainty.

Four in 10 charity-funded early career scientists have considered leaving research due to funding concerns since the virus hit the country, according to a survey by the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC).

The survey of 523 scientists funded by 72 charities also found that 28% have considered leaving due to a lack of career prospects, while 19% had considered leaving research due to Brexit.

The AMRC says the pandemic has had a devastating financial impact on medical research charities, which face cuts to their research investment of 41% over the next year.

This is a predicted £310 million shortfall in support for life-saving discoveries, it adds.

The AMRC, backed by leading charities including the British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research UK, is urging the Government to protect the UK’s position as a global leader in science and avoid a science brain drain by introducing a Life Sciences-Charity Partnership Fund.

The proposal would see the Government support charities’ investment in UK research for the next three years.

Aisling Burnand, chief executive of AMRC said: “Medical research charities are facing a catastrophic funding crisis and are having to decide where future research will need to be cut.

“Although Government has introduced a £750 million support package for charities, no funding for charitable medical research has been given.

“Funding uncertainties mean that without clarity from the Government and a commitment to support for three years, we risk losing a generation of talented young scientists who would otherwise have become the UK’s next research leaders.

“Ultimately this could have a severe impact on several decades of research crucial to finding new ways to diagnose, manage and treat diseases including heart disease, cancer, arthritis, rare diseases and neurodegenerative disorders.”

Two thirds of those surveyed said they rely entirely on charity funding for their salary, and half said their funding will expire by the end of 2021.

Of those, two thirds have been unable to secure funding to take them to the next stage in their career, according to the poll.

The results also revealed those in Greater London were twice as likely to have secured future funding than those outside of London, leading to concerns the charity funding crisis may exacerbate regional divides.

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