‘Visa cap to cost UK services of top scientists’

The controversial new immigration cap introduced by the new UK coalition government will cost Britain the services of some of the world`s top scientists, Indian-American Nobel laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan has warned.

Last Updated: Nov 06, 2010, 23:53 PM IST

London: The controversial new immigration cap introduced by the new UK coalition government will cost Britain the services of some of the world`s top scientists, Indian-American Nobel laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan has warned.

The scientist told The Times that he would have reconsidered joining the Cambridge-based Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) in 1999 if the new visa controls had applied then.

The Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition introduced the controversial cap of 24,100 non-EU migrants until April 2011, by when a permanent limit will be imposed.

While senior scientists such as Professor Ramakrishnan can still qualify for visas, provided that the cap has not been reached, key members of his team who moved with him from the United States would not be admitted today, said the India-born scientist, who won the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry "for studies of the structure and function of the ribosome".

This would have been such a severe setback to his work on ribosomes - protein factories inside cells - it would probably have denied him a Nobel prize.

"I had to take a 40 per cent pay cut to come here – a number of people thought I was crazy - and I was in a verytight race to solve the structure of the ribosome, which ultimately led to the Nobel prize," he underlined.

"There were two people, both Americans, who moved with me to the LMB, who were absolutely key to not losing time on that problem.

"If I had been unable to hire them, I might have just said, `Why should I take the risk?` I couldn`t afford any kind of delay. I would say that might have tipped the balance even though I love the LMB and the UK," he told the UK daily.

He said the migrant cap would discourage senior scientists from moving to Britain. While they might get visas for themselves, they would not be able to bring junior colleagues. "It is all about the team, not just the leader."

PTI