As well as championing open and accessible research, physicist Stephen Hawking and biologist John Sulston were part of a long tradition of British engagement with European science (for obituaries, see Nature 555, 444; 2018 and Nature 555, 588; 2018). As chief scientific advisers to the European Commission, we feel strongly that this tradition must not end — irrespective of where the future takes the United Kingdom.
Science for the greater public good depends on openness of mind, of spirit and of borders. Sulston and Hawking did much to uphold these ideals and to promote the importance of basing policy decisions on strong scientific evidence. Both recognized that society benefits from integrated scientific endeavour. Indeed, European projects built on this premise — such as the intergovernmental research organizations CERN (Europe’s particle-physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland) and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory — have strengthened science by stimulating the movement of ideas across the continent and beyond.
These great scientists shared a strong sense of social decency and encouraged a profound respect for expertise, each of which are more important now than ever.
Nature 556, 31 (2018)