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Scientific Discoveries in the UK Restricted by Immigration Laws

The Government's policy on immigration is having a negative impact on scientific discoveries in the UK, in the opinion of John O'Keefe, recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his research into the brains inner "GPS system".

O'Keefe described the present immigration rules as "a very, very large obstacle" to companies being able to hire the best scientists. He said: "Science is international, the best scientists can come from anywhere, they can come from next door or they can come from a small village in a country anywhere in the world – we need to make it easier".

A dual British and US citizen, O'Keefe continued: "I am very, very acutely aware of what you have to do if you want to bring people into Britain and get through immigration, I'm not saying it's impossible, but we should be thinking hard about making Britain a more welcoming place."

Research earlier in 2014 conducted by Lloyds Banking Group showed that foreign workers add an estimated £210 billion to the UK's economy, and are playing an increasing vital role in our professional workforce. Although this does indicate a healthy UK economy and its ability to attract a highly qualified workforce from around the world, O'Keefe believes that for the UK to continue to attract such vital talent and follow the trend of "punching above our weight in science", we must reevaluate our immigration policy.

O'Keefe has voiced this concern as he will be required to recruit 150 new neuroscientists for his upcoming research into neural circuits and behaviour, in his new role as the director of the new Sainsbury Wellcome Centre.

A Home Office spokesman, quoted by the BBC as saying: "The UK is open to the brightest and best, including talented scientists and engineers, and it is wrong to suggest our policies prevent companies appointing the skilled workers they need. Whilst the government has not shied away from taking tough action on abuse, the number of genuinely skilled people coming to the UK to fill skilled vaccines is on the rise".

Foreign workers currently make up around 15 per cent of total employment in the UK, a figure which has doubled since 1997 to 4.6 million. Furthermore, the majority of skilled foreign workers who arrive in the UK are more qualified than the average UK citizen, with inpats from the EU and other countries such as the US and Canada holding far more qualifications than home-grown talent.

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