Nobel Prize winner calls for more open UK immigration policies

08 Oct 2014 | Posted by Carl Thomas

Noble Prize-winning neuroscientist John O'Keefe has called upon the British government to address the UK immigration system to ensure that it doesn't have a negative impact on science.

Born in the US, O'Keefe won the prize for his research using rats to learn more about the brain's inner 'GPS system'. In 1971, he demonstrated that different sets of nerve cells in a rat's brain became active depending on their location within a room.

Dubbing these cells 'place cells', he argued that they essentially formed a map within the brain and all these years on, his work has now earned him the Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine, which he was awarded this week.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today Programme in the wake of his success, he highlighted ways in which Britain could continue to grow its scientific prowess: “Science is international, the best scientists can come from anywhere, they can come from next door or they can come from a small village in a country anywhere in the world - we need to make it easier.

“Britain punches way above its weight in science and I think we need to continue to do that and anything that makes it easier to bring scientists in will be very welcome.”

He went on to say that when it comes to improving science in the country, the UK immigration rules “a very, very large obstacle”. He urged the government to be “thinking hard about making Britain a more welcoming place.”

The current government, under Conservative David Cameron's leadership, has pledged to cut net migration to under 100,000 by the 2015 general election. However, this is not a pledge supported by the Liberal Democrats.