We are scientists and health professionals living and working all over the world. Many of us live and work today in countries that are not our birthplaces. Some of us consider the entire world our “work place,” as the very nature of our research, clinical practice or intellectual endeavor transcends borders, boundaries and nationalities.
Our work has benefited enormously from the 21st Century trend towards openness, cross-border collaboration, accessible transit and cyber-sharing: Globalization. As we have widened our channels of communication, concern and discovery, all of humanity reaped the benefits. By filling our laboratories with bright young scientists drawn from the entire world; by working side-by-side with colleagues on every continent; by making our findings instantly available for all to scrutinize; and by sharing vital physical and biological samples we have made collective breakthroughs in every field of human discovery.
None of us wish to see history roll back to the days when such freedom of movement and shared discovery were typically impossible. Many of us fight constantly to break down remaining travel barriers that limit internet access, exchange of materials and travel for our students and colleagues, based on their ethnicity, religion, country of origin, economic status, race or surname.
With the dawn of this century we dared to dream of lofty achievements, attacking the great challenges humanity faces: epidemic disease, extreme poverty, climate change, resource scarcity, natural disasters, inequity of access to the fruits of scientific and clinical discovery, cyber-security and privacy, mass extinction and loss of biodiversity, financial instability and man’s inhumanity towards others. We have accomplished remarkable things in the increasingly open world. For example, 17 million people infected with HIV are living normal lives, thanks to multinational scientific research the led to development of effective medicines, and creative commitments worldwide that rendered the drugs affordable to all. Fewer children are dying today than at any time in history, though there are more of them in our expanding population. Extraordinary collaborations have spawned deep understanding of the origins of our universe, the nature of climate impact on our planet, effective treatments and vaccines for hundreds of diseases that once claimed millions of lives, a map of the human genome, revolutionary ways to decipher and alter disease-causing genes, and fantastic new technologies addressing energy, transport, information, robotics and communication.
We dare to dream of an arc of continuing history that encourages ever more fluid movement of people and ideas, crossing all national borders and boundaries. We dare to imagine solutions to the world’s rising greenhouse gases crisis, food insecurity, ocean pollution, species extinction, chronic diseases and extreme poverty.
A retreat behind borders, erection of boundaries to trade in ideas, travel, education and information, puts these and countless other achievements and aspirations in jeopardy.
We deeply regret the June 23, 2016 referendum decision reached by the people of the United Kingdom, choosing to exit the European Union. Over coming months we will learn more about how Britain’s exit from the EU will directly affect science, clinical research and global health efforts in that country. More troubling, we recognize that peoples inside many nations share the frustrations and anger that fueled the UK’s Brexit vote, and we fear a further dissolution of the open, collaborative world of free travel, daring collective aspirations, and shared discovery.
We urge the people of all nations, religions, ethnicities to take a deep breath and consider the scale of profound loss we will collectively experience if other countries follow the United Kingdom’s example. Regional and global alliances that foster genuine openness and discovery represent the positive future for humanity. Do not roll back history.
Name Title Institution, Company, or Organization
Laurie Garrett Sr. Fellow for Global Health Council on Foreign Relations
Gabriella Meltzer Research Associate Council on Foreign Relations
Antoni Trilla Professor of Public Health University of Barcelona - ISGlobal
Dr. Mike Whitfield Lancaster University
Tim France Managing Director Inis Communication, Thailand
Claudio Maierovitch Public Health Specialist Fundação Oswaldo Cruz Brazil
Kathleen McLaughlin-Hoppe Concerned mother
Michael Osterholm Regents Professor and Director, CIDRAP University of Minnesota
Banning Garrett Senior Fellow Global Federation of Councils of Competitiveness
Maryse Simonet Camara Health system specialist/national seconded expert
Ms. Colette Kern