Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Brexit impacts

Source: Portal GDA.

Interviews by Julie Becker, Ecsite, Brexit – pause and reflect, Spokes#21,

A few days after the referendum results, Ecsite published a Brexit statement. In a nutshell, it reassured UK members and friends that they will remain a vital part of our community; re-emphasized the importance of cross-border collaboration, in the EU and beyond; and  expressed concerns that the results of a heated referendum campaign could become an argument to dismiss citizen involvement in policy making.

“What next?”, the Spokes Editorial Commitee debated. Let’s step back and ask our peers to reflect, we agreed. Let’s leave breaking news and political analysis to specialised publications (see our reading list at the end of this article – I would particularly recommend this sociological analysis and this comment on referenda and democracy). Let’s focus on what the Brexit means for science engagement, we decided – for there is a link, our intuition told us, and it’s not just about the UK, but about European (perhaps Western) societies in general. Let’s see what representatives of UK science centres but also of European networks in neighbouring fields think about it: universities, museums, regional R&I stakeholders and citizen science actors.

Let me try and sum up the main ideas I’m taking from our five interviewees. We are a little worried about funding but we will find ways to keep on working with our excellent UK partners, everyone agrees. The Brexit revealed a worrying divide in UK society, and more generally in European democracies. As researchers, innovators or public engagement and education professionals, the activities and dialogues we participate in are inseparable from the political and societal systems in which we operate. We need open societies and international collaborations to thrive: we cannot ignore the serious challenge raised by the “we’ve had enough of experts” argument of the leave campaign and the inward-looking temptation of parts of the electorate.

What now? We need to examine what populism means for science, urges Richard. We need to bridge the gap between experts and parts of society, says Thomas – citizen science can be one of these bridges, Katrin suggests. We’re good at telling stories – let’s tell stories of identity that celebrate our diverse roots, offers Julia. The Brexit showed millions that their vote is a powerful tool: this is the good part of the news, and might turn into an opportunity for citizen empowerment, hopes Penny.

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