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Why is it important to consider the role of the EU in researcher collaboration and mobility?

Recent decades have seen significant increases in global competition between countries to attract skilled migrants.

In a world in which research is carried out on a truly global basis, international interaction is important to scientific success. The UK is a world leader in science, and researchers move (see Box 1) and collaborate (see Box 2) to pursue scientific excellence; collaboration and mobility are a key part of the business of science, and they are distinct and complementary.

Mobility ensures a circulation of skills and ideas around the world, and ‘brain circulation’ in the global research system sees scientists follow the best science and the best resources. Recent decades have seen significant increases in global competition between countries to attract skilled migrants.

Scientists have a long history of working together, but the level of international collaboration is increasing. When UK-based researchers publish internationally-collaborative papers, they are more highly cited, a measure of scientific impact, than papers published by only UK-based authors. This gap has widened over time.

It is important to understand the role that the EU plays in the UK research landscape to give an insight into how a changing relationship with the EU might affect this. This report considers the extent and value of collaboration and mobility in UK science, and the role that the EU plays in supporting this. It focuses predominantly on collaboration and mobility of UK-based academic researchers. 

Although collaboration and mobility are also important to researchers in industry and students, specific mechanisms to support their collaboration and mobility are not covered in this report. However, they and their work may be counted in some of the analyses.

Box 1: Why are researchers internationally mobile?

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Box 2: Why do UK researchers collaborate internationally?

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