Huppert warns BAS merger could damage UK’s global standing
Cambridge MP, Julian Huppert has warned that the proposed British Antarctic Survey merger could seriously damage the UK’s polar and climate research and risk its international reputation.
He spoke out as part of the consultation on the proposals to merge BAS – based in Cambridge – with the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton.
“It is already extremely clear that these proposals are damaging the reputation of BAS, locally and internationally, and are extremely poor for morale there,” he said.
“I have been struck by the depth of resistance shown to this since the consultation was announced, not just among those directly affected at BAS (where there is extremely strong concern), but also among companies, NGOs and private individuals around Cambridge. A surprisingly large number of these have approached me unprompted to express their concern if the BAS presence, focus and brand were to be diluted.”
While acknowledging the benefits of closer working between NOC and BAS, and between BAS and the Universities, Julian warned that the proposals are “a mistake and run the risk of causing significant damage to the UK’s quality of research and international reputation in this area.”-
He said it would be particularly short-sighted to push ahead with the proposals in this centenary year of Scott’s death, and when the Antarctica Bill is going through Parliament which will lead to scrutiny in this area.
Julian is worried that the downgrading of BAS would harm links with other organisations such as those that make up the Cambridge Conservation Initiative, rather than furthering them as the merger proposal suggests.
He said that the BAS brand was important, not just as a badge in the Antarctic but internationally and tied to the reputation of BAS in Cambridge. If the merger goes ahead with an HQ in Southampton, it will send the strongest possible signal to the international research community that the intentions are to downgrade BAS, he said.
“It is hard to see how this could be interpreted in any other way, and would lead to another decline in the ability of BAS to recruit and retain world-leading staff,’ he said. “Its reputation will then decline, with morale, and the quality of science done will worsen.
“I have so far seen little evidence to suggest going ahead with this merger, as compared to very significant risks, some of which are happening even just as a result of the issue being raised.”
The final decision will be taken by the Council of the Natural Environment Research Council.