Cross-border mobility key to UK’s top researchers

5 May 2017

Having the freedom to move internationally and pursue collaborations in other countries is essential for good research and innovation, according to a survey of Fellows and grant recipients of the UK’s four national academies: the British Academy, the Academy of Medical Sciences, Royal Academy of Engineering and Royal Society.

1,286 of the UK’s leading researchers (consisting of 762 Fellows and 524 grant recipients across the four national academies) were surveyed to find out about the importance of international collaboration and mobility. Key findings include:

  • Europe was reported to be the most likely continent in which respondents travelled (95%) and collaborated (87%)

  • 58% of respondents said that they had spent a year or more working abroad, 64% of whom had spent this time in North America

  • 95% said that they had been part of at least one international collaboration in the previous five years

  • 77% said that the level of international collaboration is higher now than it was 20 years ago

Survey participants’ motivations to pursue international collaborations included contributing expertise (73%), a desire to build or maintain links with researchers based overseas (66%) and accessing expertise (54%).

22% of those surveyed agreed that the ease of obtaining a visa influenced their choice of collaborator. The survey found few reported instances of issues where visa or immigration policies had deterred participants from international travel; this was most commonly an issue for those visiting Russia (31%), USA (24%), China (13%) and India (12%). 

Speaking in response to the survey, Lord Nicholas Stern, President of the British Academy said:"Excellent research, in the humanities and social sciences, as well as in medicine and engineering, depends on the ability to collaborate, develop understanding and learn from the best, wherever they may be based. UK universities are world-leaders in research, and because of this we attract outstanding international talent. Maintaining this global outlook is crucial to upholding our high-quality research base."

Read the full report, The role of international mobility and collaboration in research.

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