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ODA cuts will damage the future of UK science

As UK-based early career researchers on fixed-term contracts in the Water Security Hub, we firmly decry and deplore the UK government’s cuts to Official Development Assistance.

08 April 2021

This callous decision, made under the shadow of COVID-19 and promises of ‘build back better’, risks creating a lost generation of scientists as fixed-term contracts are now hanging by a thread.

We are proud to be part of the Water Security Hub – we know how prestigious these Hubs are and we fully appreciate the professional benefits being a part of these projects brings. The UK’s reputation as a global research leader led many of us to leave permanent contracts, uproot our families, and move thousands of miles because this project will accelerate the reach and impact of our work.

Early career researchers are the principle scientists of the future. We are motivated and passionate about the work we do, contributing directly to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals by addressing flood, drought, and climate change risks; improving water quality, sanitation, and hygiene; and tackling antimicrobial resistance. The ODA cuts will have far-reaching implications on the researchers who have brought their skills, talent, and expertise to fight the some of the major crises faced by humanity during these unprecedented times.

Many of us come from countries where water is gold - India, Ethiopia, Palestine, Nigeria: we understand the suffering in places where water is scarce.

This GCRF-funded Hub provides us with an opportunity to establish ourselves as leading and forward-thinking specialists in our areas of expertise through knowledge exchange, national and international collaboration, and partnership engagement. We are working with the some of the world’s most vulnerable people, influencing decision-makers in low- and middle-income countries, and developing sustainable solutions for global water security.

The UK government’s treacherous decision to break its ODA commitment, and UKRI’s bureaucratic acceptance of this, show a complete disregard for social justice and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion – principles which were (ironically) at the heart of the projects which are now under threat. The UK government has seriously undermined our faith in its research bodies. The ODA cuts set a dangerous precedent and will destroy the trust and transparency we have built with our colleagues overseas.

Far from creating a ‘science superpower’, the UK risks losing expertise and knowledge, of diminishing the country’s capacity to conduct world-leading research – because we will leave. We will take with us our expertise, our training, our enthusiasm, and our networks, and we will not look back.

Signed:

  • Dr Ajay Bhave, Core Research Fellow, Newcastle University
  • Dr Anna Murgatroyd, Research Associate at the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford
  • Dr Gopal Iyer, Research Associate in Education, Newcastle University
  • Dr Helen Underhill, Research Associate in Socio-Cultural Values, Newcastle University
  • Dr Kishor Acharya, Research Associate in Bio and Environmental Engineering, Newcastle University
  • Dr Marya Hillesland, Research Officer in Development Economics, University of Oxford
  • Dr May Sule, Senior Research Associate in Water Quality, Climate and Health, University of Oxford
  • Dr Maria-Valasia Peppa, Research Associate in Geospatial Engineering, Newcastle University
  • Dr Nasser Tuqan, Research Associate in Water Resources Management, Newcastle University
  • Dr Sarah Cooper, Research Associate in Water Security, Policy and Governance, University of Leeds
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