UK’s immigration rules too strict, says Nobel Prize winner John O’Keefe

Nobel Prize winner John O'Keefe has warned that UK’s restrictive immigration and animal research policies could damage the country’s ability to attract top scientific talent.

Prof O'Keefe, 74, was on Monday awarded the Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine for rat research into the brain's inner "GPS system".

He started his career at McGill University in Canada before moving to University College London.

As the director of the new Sainsbury Wellcome Centre for research into neural circuits and behaviour, Prof O'Keefe has to recruit 150 neuroscientists.

"The immigration rules are a very, very large obstacle,” Prof O'Keefe told the BBC. "I am very, very acutely aware of what you have to do if you want to bring people into Britain and to get through immigration, I'm not saying it's impossible, but we should be thinking hard about making Britain a more welcoming place."

Prof O'Keefe added: "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."

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