Click images for more details



Recent comments
Recent posts

A few sites I've stumbled across recently....

Powered by Squarespace
« Carbon austerity | Main | Bayesians on Bayes »

Nurse joins the EU referendum battle

Paul Nurse has weighed into the EU referendum fray with an article in the Guardian outlining why he thinks we should stay in.

There's a lot of spurious verbiage to get through, but at the end of the day he seems to be saying that because we get some science funding from the EU we should stay in (he makes a subsidiary point that being in aids collaboration). Having cut through the stream of words in this way, one can see that his argument is extraordinarily thin.

I assume Nurse is clever enough to understand that the concerns of the scientific community are only a minor side issue in the arguments over Europe. In reality, we have the considerable issues of taxation, self-determination, democracy and openness to the world to consider.

Money grubbing by scientists should not weigh too heavily on the views of politicians or of the voters in a referendum.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

Reader Comments (60)

And why would funding & collaboration stop?
Do we collaborate with the USA? We're not part of it?

Jan 27, 2013 at 10:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterAdam Gallon

Dave Spart at his best.

Jan 27, 2013 at 10:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterHuhneToTheSlammer


Jan 27, 2013 at 10:46 AM | Unregistered Commenteroldtimer

The interesting thing is ... who does Nurse think is funding EU science? In many cases they are simply allowing us to spend a little of our own money (providing we spend it on research aimed at bbolstering the EU's own pre-conceived notions).

Jan 27, 2013 at 10:51 AM | Registered Commentermatthu

Continued EU membership is a central part of the establishment mindset. No surprise then that Nurse sides with the little Europeans.

Jan 27, 2013 at 10:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterNicholas Hallam

The UK is a net contributor to European Union budget, which means Sir Paul Nurse should realise that the funds for science that he spurting on about is UK money channeled through the corrupt EU.

EU = mc18

It doesn't mater how fast you chase the European Commission, you never catch up with the money. This fact can be expressed as EU = mc18, where EU is the immovable object, mc = mass corruption and 18 is the number of years that it has been impossible to perform a budgetary audit.

Jan 27, 2013 at 11:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterAnoneumouse

What a daft argument. Where does he think that EU money comes from?

Jan 27, 2013 at 11:17 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Where does he think that EU money comes from?
The guvmint.
I've said before, to be a scientist you don't have to be very bright. In fact outside their own very blinkered discipline a very large number of scientists are very thick. Even Nobel Laureates!
[To be fair, it doesn't just apply to scientists!]

Jan 27, 2013 at 11:25 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Ultimately this issue comes down to one question only - who runs Britain?

Do we want a Britain governed by Britons who were elected by, are accountable to and can be removed by their fellow Britons, or do we want foreigners running the country without mandate, without accountability or without any prospect of being removed by the people they seek to govern?

Who funds Sir Paul Nurses next science project is irrelevent in comparison to this most fundamental question.

Jan 27, 2013 at 11:58 AM | Unregistered Commentercheshirered

I was very disappointed with Sir Paul's appearance on the TV programme about climate change. He is a great man, a great mind in his chosen field, but still at heart a little boy. His reaction to the big weather display 3D globe was 'oooh, shiny" not "I wonder how accurate it is?". It looked good, therefore the science behind it must be right. And this from the President of the Royal Society.

Most revealing is his chief objection to leaving the EU: it's about the money. Perhaps all the deniers could club together and persuade Big Oil to fund UK science -- it'll be peanuts after all the dollars they give us to oppose AGW.


Jan 27, 2013 at 12:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterJulian Flood

Here's a link to the same thing with ability to comment, if anybody can be bothered.

Jan 27, 2013 at 12:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid C

Quoting the article: "Scientific evidence will more often than not carry the day, as can be seen from the EU's leadership on climate change".

Those must be the words of a true visionary.

Jan 27, 2013 at 12:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterCees de Valk

The Guardian (actually the Observer’s) top Argument from Authority today is Professor Lord Sir Nicholas’s 'I got it wrong on climate change – it's far, far worse'

Jan 27, 2013 at 12:45 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Mr Nurse would do well to read Christopher Booker in today's ST.

Jan 27, 2013 at 12:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

As president of the Royal Society, Nurse is simply batting for his team. What else should he do? As such I think his argument just about holds up.

Of course, as president of the Royal Society, his first duty should be to uphold its motto, nullius in verba, and to be a champion of 'science'. We know that in that particular role he is a failure.

Jan 27, 2013 at 12:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterN.Tropywins

Would the UK wish to continue trade with the EU, would not its products and processes be required to meet the standards and restrictions invented in Brussels? Isn't this burden a significant cost of playing ball with these folk? And bailing would not remove it?

Jan 27, 2013 at 1:42 PM | Registered Commenterjferguson

jfergusen - the trouble is that ALL of our products and processes are required to meet EU standards and restrictions regardless of whether or not they are being exported to the EU - or even being exported at all. Hence the huge bureaucratic burden of belonging to the EU.

Jan 27, 2013 at 1:58 PM | Registered Commentermatthu

matthu has it and is quite correct - "EU money" is paid by the British taxpayer - then recycled via EU regional networks - such largesse nearly causes one to be overcome in an ecstasy of grateful relief.

Nurse's argument, is fatuous nonsensical whining but rest assured he is 'on message' and very much a pro EU big government statist - aren't they all?

I think it apposite, to take an opposing view, it can be certainly made, hundreds of millions of pounds of British taxpayers monies are clearly going to feed other scientists and laboratories all over the EU. Then, surely it is logical to think - that, if we were out of the EU, then greater funds would be available for key scientific research in British labs, Universities but more importantly in industry?

Though, there is a wider point to be emphasized.

It is very easy to sometimes think, that our establishment has gone totally 'native'. Rather like the ancient Romano-Brits, they lived the life of luxury and protected by the aegis of Roman power.

In modern Britain, despite what our politicians tell us: we are now a lowly province of the Brussels EU super state.

Thus, funding British scientific innovation, putting Britain first - is somewhat frowned upon, competition with German industry has ended - we have been taken over. In the rarefied circles of some government departments and in the administration and establishment - the pervading ethos seems to be....

we can't compete and strive to better our masters and betters [can we?] - that would be biting the hand that keeps us and that will provide for our children!

Jan 27, 2013 at 2:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

Ultimately this issue comes down to one question only - who runs Britain?

Do we want a Britain governed by Britons who were elected by, are accountable to and can be removed by their fellow Britons, or do we want foreigners running the country without mandate, without accountability or without any prospect of being removed by the people they seek to govern?

Short answer: yes, we do.

But it isn't what we've got.

In fact we are run by a self-selecting group of ex-public school millionaires with no mechanism in our party system of doing anything about it.

So mainly for this reason, I'm happy to have some overseers from other countries where at least they have a semblance of democracy.

Jan 27, 2013 at 2:24 PM | Registered Commentersteve ta

steveta - I am not sure what you are saying.

Are you implying that the EU somehow has a greater semblance of democracy than the UK?

Where the laws are made in a closed room by a group of unelected commissioners?
Where referendums are actively discouraged and opposed?
Where there is not even any common "demos"?
Where the accounts have not even been approved for 18 years?

This is a better semblance of democracy than our own?

I might add that politicians and mainstream media (BBC, Independent and Guadian in particular) have spent years telling us that Europe does not matter as an issue for the voter.

Jan 27, 2013 at 2:43 PM | Registered Commentermatthu

Nurse says "Scientific evidence will more often than not carry the day, as can be seen from the EU's leadership on climate change."

I had always thought it was the UK that claimed to be leading the rest of Europe on climate change issues?

Nevertheless, it was Europe that tried to lead us to a massive taxation of air traffic flying over Europe (which was fortunately rejected by the rest of the world) that might have brought about a global trade war.

It was also Europe that led us into developing a CO2 trading market - now being allowed to fail (the price of emitting one tonne of CO2 now being less than the price of a packet of charcoal) - but at what price? Who has lost all the billions and who has been underwriting that?

And it was Europe that led us into littering our landscape with windmills and saddled us with overpriced energy for decades to come.

Of course we will never know the whole truth, partly because the EU won't ever publish their accounts.

Jan 27, 2013 at 3:01 PM | Registered Commentermatthu

As Mike Jackson points out scientists are surprisingly thick.

Now a pub quiz is not a failsafe test of mental acuity but I used to regularly vanquish a team of four professional chemists at my local pub quiz. My team consisted of a plumber, a bricklayer, a warehouseman, and me, a buyer.

They all worked for a big pharmaceutical company and thought they were the dog's nuts but it was all very friendly. We always defeated them. I got to look at one of their answer sheets one night and was dismayed to discover that they thought - Barcelona was the capital of Spain, Beethoven wrote the 1812 Overture, Charles Dickens wrote Twelfth Night, and the lead singer of Led Zeppelin was Rod Stewart.

I don't expect The President of The Royal Society is any better and his views on how the world should work can be safely discounted. He was once a member of the Socialist Workers Party after all, a bigger bunch of blithering idiots you couldn't wish to meet.

P.S. I always split infinitives whenever possible.

Jan 27, 2013 at 3:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Crawford

Andrew Gilligan paints a reassuring picture of Brussels Bingo-Hall democracy in the Telegraph today

Jan 27, 2013 at 4:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Reed

anoneumouse, the "mc” in mc18 could also stand for "master of cere-monies"

Jan 27, 2013 at 5:26 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Having had some involvement with EU environmental research projects, it must be said that non-EU European countries - especially Norway - regularly participate. I've no reason to suppose that it's any different in other research fields.

Nurse is an embarrassment, who sinks ever lower in my estimation with every public utterance.

Jan 27, 2013 at 6:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

What Nurse is after is funding from the EU for the Royal Society. A much bigger population means bigger money, especially if the RS says what they want to hear. With himself as president of the EURS, naturally.

Jan 27, 2013 at 7:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterEdward Bancroft

Great Top Gear has just started

Jan 27, 2013 at 8:01 PM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

I'm afraid that Sir Paul Nurse, the man who thinks that huiman activity contributes seven times more CO2 to the atmosphere than derives from natural sources such as the oceans, knows as little about the workings of the EU as he does about climate science, John Marshall, commenting above, links to the item in my Sunday Telegraph column today which explains how and why Norway, as a member of the European Free Trade Area and the European Economic Area. is in many ways more influential in shaping the rules of the EU's Single Market than Britain. Hence, as a subsequent comment rightly points out, Norway is a full participant in and beneficiary of the European Research Area (ERA). So, if Britain was to withdraw from the EU but join the EFTA/EEA. it would continue to play just as active a part in European research programmes and be eligible for just as much funding as it does now as a member of the EU, Once again the President of the Royal Society demonstrates that, outside his specialism as an expert in the genetics of cell division, he is no better informed about how the world works than the proverbial 'man in the pub'. Opinionated, very much so. Reliable in what he says, not at all.

Jan 27, 2013 at 8:50 PM | Unregistered Commenterchristopher booker

Christopher Booker - good to see you commenting here. I read your article about Norway's situation yesterday and it reminded me of a similarly thoughtful article I read in the Scotsman, a month or so ago, by Jim Sillars. He was taking a pop at the current SNP leadership who clearly have little idea about the political realities of what the EU has become, and what Scotland's best course to democratic autonomy would be. Sillars' piece is from the Scottish perspective, but the course he suggests Salmond and Scotland should follow is remarkably close to the one you advocate for Cameron and Westminster. Small world and all that.

Jim Sillars: You can’t be serious, SNP... The Scotsman, Dec 13, 2012.

Jan 27, 2013 at 9:42 PM | Registered Commenterlapogus

As a former card carrying member of the SWP and graduate of the University of East Anglia and President of the Right on Royal Society of course the opportunist is in favour of the EU.
I have written twice to the Royal Society asking them to correct the nonsense about man made CO2 being seven times natural emission. No response of course.

Jan 27, 2013 at 10:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterStacey

From Christopher Booker: if anyone would like chapter and verse on how active a part Norway outside the EU plays in the European Research Area, here is a useful link:

Jan 27, 2013 at 11:01 PM | Unregistered Commenterchristopher booker

One of the most successful scientific collaborations in Europe is CERN, famous for being the organisation where the World Wide Web was conceived and for the recent confirmation of the existence of the Higgs Boson, using the large Hadron Collider. If we left the EU we would still be members of organisations like CERN and the European Space Agency.

Aren't there enough real problems for Paul Nurse and the Royal Society to worry about?

Jan 27, 2013 at 11:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

"Paul Nurse has weighed into the EU referendum fray with an article in the Guardian outlining why he thinks we should stay in"
If Paul was but a humble UK resident he'd have every right to punt his personal views. As the President of the RS, he should be aloof from revealing his political leanings.
That he eschews this responsibility, reflects badly on himself, but, more so,
on a venerable institution if it ignores his ascientific and subjective pontifications as worthy of its accreditated primate.
Keep it up RS and, before you know it, you'll be taking cash from canines (like kenji from WUWT) AND trashing your proud history for a wee bit of short-lived, political and financial feel-good!

Jan 27, 2013 at 11:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR

Nurse again demonstrates that certain prominent scientists have fallen into the trap of assuming that because they are scientists - who know a lot about a little - they are experts on public policy.

In fact, as a group scientists are lousy at public policy, and are frequently astonishingly ignorant about most things outside their discipline (as the delightful pub quiz anecdote above illustrates).

Due to their narrow disciplinary focus, they simply can't understand why everyone doesn't just accept their expert advice. The concept of cost/benefit analysis, prioritisation of resources and the big picture generally is foreign to them.

Jan 27, 2013 at 11:48 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

Its about preserving something called the EU Multiannual Financial Framework', and he's already written to Cameron about it last October -

Jan 28, 2013 at 12:15 AM | Registered CommenterPharos

That is just plain stupid. The UK is a net contributor to the EU. More British taxpayers' money goes I than comes back. If anything, leaving would leave more budget available to buy off, I mean fund, our virtuoso sack cloth and ashes scientists.

Jan 28, 2013 at 12:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko

from Christopher Booker (again): my friend and colleague Dr Richard North has just put up a very useful post outlining Norway's extensive participation in EU research projects and funding, on his EU Referendum blog:

Jan 28, 2013 at 12:31 AM | Unregistered Commenterchristopher booker

Jan 27, 2013 at 1:58 PM | matthu:

jfergusen - the trouble is that ALL of our products and processes are required to meet EU standards and restrictions regardless of whether or not they are being exported to the EU - or even being exported at all. Hence the huge bureaucratic burden of belonging to the EU.

My point was that if UK quits the EU, you'll still have to comply with all that stuff if you want to sell product to them? That is the case isn't it?

Jan 28, 2013 at 1:12 AM | Registered Commenterjferguson

When discussing "in or out" all people need to do is decide their priorities. The three stooge parties are always telling us that we are better off in and warning us of economic problems if we are out.
The question people and political parties must ask themselves is "do I put financial gain before democratic freedom?"
I happen to think that we would be financially better off outside the EU but if we were not better off I would still vote for a free democratic country, I will therefore vote UKIP.

Jan 28, 2013 at 1:22 AM | Registered CommenterDung


At the moment we are Germany's largest trading partner in the world, they don't trade with us out of friendship, they buy and sell products on the basis of quality and price. Germany will not refuse to do business with a free UK.

Jan 28, 2013 at 1:26 AM | Registered CommenterDung

Are you suggesting that if the UK departs the EU, and commences to shed the most onerous regulatory impositions on the design and manufacture of its products, likely reducing their cost, Germany would buy them even though EU non-compliant? Would Germany manufacture EU non-compliant products for their trade with UK?

Maybe my mistake here is assuming that making products in conformance with EU regulation is not entirely reasonable and adds significantly to their cost in ways not of benefit to the public.

Jan 28, 2013 at 1:42 AM | Registered Commenterjferguson


As far as I know, when one company orders an item from another company, the buyer specifies exactly what he wants and the seller either agrees to those specifications or he does not. I don't see how the EU has any influence there?

Jan 28, 2013 at 2:36 AM | Registered CommenterDung

Athens had the same problem, according to Socrates. Galileo's creation of scientific method should have made scientists humble and solved the problem for scientists. Why is Nurse ignorant of Galileo?

Jan 28, 2013 at 3:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

Thanks Christopher Booker for comments here and for your many valuable articles.

The link provided to the EU Refendum article does not work (there seems to be an extraneous comma at the end) but here is a hyperlink for anyone wanting to read that helpful post showing Nurse's ... ummmm ... inaccuracies:

EU politics: a picture of ignorance

Jan 28, 2013 at 3:48 AM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

De Gaul refused Britain entry to the EU on the basis it would be would be a Trojan horse for the Americans. He was right.

I predicted they wouldn't let Britain leave before I read this.

Barack Obama piles pressure on David Cameron over EU exit

Jan 28, 2013 at 5:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterE Smiff

jferguson - the point is that if you are, say, a local jam producer and not exporting to the EU, you won't have to ensure that your jam label complies with EU regulations in every respect. You won't have to ensure that your jars comply and all of your health and safety regulations comply. You will only have UK regulations to comply with.

If you want to employ a new staff member, you won't run the risk of getting dragged to the EU court of human rights.

If you are a stay at home mother and want to donate jars of jam to a school fete, you won't have to comply with EU regulations so perhaps the school would be willing to accept your contribution.

I think you get the idea.

Jan 28, 2013 at 6:55 AM | Registered Commentermatthu

More than 400 laws have been passed because of the European Union since the Coalition came to power – at a £700million cost to businesses and taxpayers.

One of the daftest directives from Brussels, incorporated into law by civil servants, concerns the labelling of fruit juices.

The wording ‘partially made with concentrate’ must be changed to ‘partially made from concentrate’, with the one-word alteration costing the industry an estimated £160,000, to ‘alleviate translational difficulties’ across EU states.

Tory MP Priti Patel, who uncovered the figures, said: ‘These are just the tip of the iceberg and do not even include the costs from other EU directives – ranging from the cost of buying cabbage and a light bulb to paying utility bills.’

The CBI, representing British industry, said: ‘It’s vital that unnecessary red tape is cut back and doesn’t hold back growth.’

Read more:

Jan 28, 2013 at 7:28 AM | Registered Commentermatthu

Given that the Royal Society is pretty much another quango, arms-lengthed from democratic accountability but susceptible the the whims of the executive - hello Sir Humphrey! - I suppose it should be no surprise that Sir Paul is co-opted to be a megaphone for propaganda - given the thin argument he presents, one does have to wonder if he did it off his own back or at the suggestion of an official / self serving eurobureaucrat.

It doesn't take much to imagine the conversation that preceded the drafting of the press release....

Jan 28, 2013 at 8:39 AM | Registered Commentertomo

Why not go and read Chris Booker's articles — from yesterday and last Sunday? I think you will find your suggestion that leaving the EU shuts the door on British exports is fully answered.
I might add that this is probably the biggest lie the Euro-fanatics propagate and with boring regularity.
In the first place they have consistently over-stated UK exports to the EU whenever possible including goods shipped to eg Rotterdam for onward shipment to the rest of the world and they have also made the — to my mind somewhat bizarre — assumption that Dung challenges above that the Germans and the French and the Spanish and the Poles will all cut off their noses to spite their collective faces the minute we leave.
And as Booker points out a lot of the rules under which we operate and for which we blame the EU are actually decided at a level above that even and in EFTA/EEA we would have direct input into that process.

Jan 28, 2013 at 9:49 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson


'As far as I know, when one company orders an item from another company, the buyer specifies exactly what he wants and the seller either agrees to those specifications or he does not. I don't see how the EU has any influence there?'

If only that were true.

If I offer to sell you a visible bowl of bananas and you accept my offer and money changes hands then at least one of us has committed an offence.

See 'The Metric Martyrs'. It;s still an offence but even the most rabid Trading Standards officer has decided that its not worth prosecuting because of the increased contempt they will bring down upon their heads

Governments will always find a way to interfere - even in agreements freely made between consenting adults.

Jan 28, 2013 at 11:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>