British and European parliaments must continue to support pan-European research collaboration following Brexit
Following the United Kingdom’s (UK) referendum on European Union (EU) membership, medical trainees and students from around Europe made a commitment to continue to support pan-European research collaboration [1-2]. International collaboration enables high quality audit and research to be efficiently delivered by frontline clinicians, providing results that are both generalisable and impactful for patients .
As the UK leaves the EU, it meaningful and gratifying to see work from two trainee- and student-driven European collaborative groups (Right Iliac Fossa Treatment (RIFT) Collaborative  and EuroSurg Collaborative ) being published . Since the EU referendum, these studies have been delivered by actively engaging junior doctors and students across Europe to deliver international, grass-roots projects together. Thousands of collaborators, across hundreds of hospitals, have worked in tandem to contribute data for the shared benefit of patients. What has been repeatedly demonstrated by these and other multispecialty initiatives, is that research can not and should not be limited by regional or national borders.
In 2017, the UK government produced a position statement regarding future collaboration with the UK to “seek agreement to continue to collaborate with European partners on major science, research, and technology initiatives” . Therefore, it is concerning that the newly elected British parliament has voted against prioritising the securement of ongoing full membership in the Erasmus programme in Brexit negotiations. Medical research has thrived across the EU under the free movement of academics and students; unified approaches to regulation; and funding towards pan-European research consortia. Divergence of the UK from the EU on these aspects threatens future collaboration and progress.
As Brexit negotiations continue, we urge all members of the British and European Parliaments to join the commitment to support research collaboration across Europe. The minimum negotiation objectives for all parties should include:
- Maintenance of access to Erasmus across the UK and EU.
- Maintenance of the regulatory alignment with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Clinical Trials Regulation.
- Recommit to continuation of access and support towards shared funding initiatives, such as Horizon 2020.
The future of research is collaborative: the move towards greater cooperation needs to be appropriately valued and resolutely supported at all levels. Unless continuation of these programmes is urgently prioritised, pan-European medical research will face insurmountable barriers to deliver improvements to patient care.
1. Nepogodiev, D, National Surgical Research Collaborative. UK surgical trainees will continue to support European research collaboration. The Lancet, 2016. 388 (10043): 459 – 460.
2. Pellino, G, Pata F, Italian Committee of Eurosurg Collaborative. Brexit—a perspective from the other side of the Channel. 2016; 388(10060): 2605-2606.
3. Bhangu A, Kolias AG, Pinkney T, et al. Surgical research collaboratives in the UK. Lancet 2013;382:1091–2.
4. RIFT Study Group on behalf of the West Midlands Research Collaborative. Evaluation of appendicitis risk prediction models in adults with suspected appendicitis. Br J Surg. 2020;107(1):73-86.
5. EuroSurg Collaborative. Safety and efficacy of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce ileus after colorectal surgery. Br J Surg. 2020 Jan;107(2):e161-e169.
6. HM Government (2017) Collaboration on science and innovation: a future partnership paper. London: The Stationery Office
Writing Group: McLean KA, Kamarajah SK, Blanco-Colino R, Sgrò A, Glasbey J, Nepogodiev D.
Signatories: Riaz A Agha (Academic Surgery Collaborative); Rory J Piper, Angelos Kolias, Aimun Jamjoom (British Neurosurgical Trainee Research Collaborative); Veeru Kasivisvanathan (British Urology Researchers in Surgical Training); Ruth Blanco-Colino, Alessandro Sgrò (European Student Research Collaborative); Carly Welch, Lauren McCluskey (Geriatric Medicine Research Collaborative); Ewen Harrison (GlobalSurg Collaborative); Francesco Pata, Gianluca Pellino (Italian Surgical Research Group); Sarantos Kaptanis (London Surgical Research Group); Joana Simoes, António Sampaio Soares (Portuguese Surgical Research Collaborative); George Ramsay, Michael Wilson (Scottish Surgical Research Group); Natalie Blencowe (Severn and Peninsula Audit and Research Collaborative for Surgeons); Richard Wilkin (Single Use Negative pRessure dressing for Reduction In Surgical site infection following Emergency laparotomy); Kenneth A McLean, Sivesh K Kamarajah, Emily C Mills (Student Audit and Research in Surgery collaborative); Niall Brindl, Julia Gsenger, Charlotte Kuner, Marius Schwab (Student-Initiated German Medical Audit); Rhianon Reynolds (Welsh Ophthalmic Research Collaborative); James Glasbey, Richard Evans, Dmitri Nepogodiev (West Midlands Research Collaborative); Joshua Burke, Peter Coe (White Rose Surgical Collaborative).
Competing interests: No competing interests