“Why my team and I had to leave the UK”

Roel Dullens is a researcher in physical chemistry. He worked at the University of Oxford, having set up his own laboratory there since 2012. Surrounded by a dedicated team, he had received funding from the prestigious European Research Council, which the European Union relies on. So everything was going for good.

But the shadow of Brexit hangs over the works and projects of Roel Dullens. Indeed, the Brexit agreement provides that the United Kingdom can join the Horizon Europe R&D program as an associate member and the country’s scientists can continue to receive European funding. But today nothing is sure, “As scientific cooperation continues to fall prey to the repercussions of political disputes over Northern Ireland and other commercial issues,” explain it financial Times, So Roel Dullens runs the risk of losing his funds. Indeed, the European Research Council announced in April 2022 that scientists established in the UK and those who had received funding had two months to move to an EU research establishment or would have to forfeit their subsidies. Thus scientists living across the channel could lose 200 to 300 grants each year, each typically valued at between 1.5 and 2.5 million euros over five years.

a titanic trick

So Roel Dullens moved to the Netherlands and carried his entire team in his luggage to Radboud University in Nijmegen:

Roel Dullens cites two main reasons for leaving Oxford, where he worked for fourteen years and was a full professor for five. One was to stay close to his elderly parents and to give his children a Dutch education in his native Netherlands. The second reason was to avoid the adverse consequences of Brexit for British science.

Oxford University let him go without any difficulty. What Roel Dullens feared most was telling his colleagues and persuading them to follow him. it is “That was actually the hardest part of the whole thing — the most nerve-wracking day of my life — but it also turned out to be one of the most enjoyable parts. […] I told them that their research supervisor was leaving, and they were probably in shock for two or three days. But then everyone who was at Oxford, who was not finishing doctoral studies, said: ‘I’ll meet you.’, A pleasant surprise and a great relief.

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Today, he says they are still tested by the logistical dimension of the operation. His new laboratory is not yet fully operational and his research has been delayed a bit. According to him, this is something to fully anticipate. One of his disciples, Ruth, has absolutely no regrets about following him:

“The move disrupted my work, but moving here really opened my eyes to Europe as a possibility.”

The icing on the cake, the doctoral students of the Netherlands are not treated as ordinary students but as employees in their own right.

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About the Author: Forrest Morton

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