Tuesday, 23 November 2021

No prize winners on UK visa scheme

 New Scientist published a story yesterday pointing out that no-one has applied to use a new visa scheme to come to the UK with a scientific prize from a long-ish list allowing one to bypass some of the visa application process.  

The UK Home Office has created a scheme called "Global Talent" as part of its desire to encourage the right sort of people to come to the UK.  The right sort include anyone who has won one from a list of prizes to come.  

Perhaps unsurprisingly, no science prize winners have wanted to apply for one of these visas, although it is always possible that the prize winners have come and not made use of the scheme.  The news story in the New Scientist has some choice quotes.  I like the one from Jess Wade who is reported to have said "Frankly, having precisely zero people apply for this elitist scheme doesn’t surprise me at all.  UK scientists’ access to European funding is uncertain, we’re not very attractive to European students as they have to pay international fees, our pensions are being cut and scientific positions in the UK are both rare and precarious."-- All of which I totally agree with, but it's the words from Christopher Jackson that resonate the most:

The idea of prioritising entry to the UK for science award winners is flawed, according to geoscientist Christopher Jackson at the University of Manchester, who in 2020 became the first black scientist to host the Royal Institution’s Christmas lectures. Jackson says these awards are inherently biased and an immigration system based on them will only replicate science’s lack of diversity.

“How we measure excellence is very nebulous,” says Jackson. “These awards favour certain people – those who are white, male, heterosexual, cis-gendered – and reward them based on their privilege.”

Of the over 600 Nobel science laureates from 1901, just 23 are women. No award has ever been given to a black laureate in a science subject. “Studies show that most scientific award winners are white men of European descent and often working at American universities,” Jackson says.

The prizes reward the people the prize givers want to reward, and the idea that it is or can be done in some way objectively for the "best" science,  and that that science can be attributed to the work of a single person is laughable - but it's a joke with a long tradition in the UK where the tradition of the established order annointing the next generation of leaders by a bit of hand- (or school-) selection is so commonplace as to rarely raise eyebrows.

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