Working across borders fundamental to UK’s top researchers



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.

In a report commissioned by the Academy of Medical Sciences, British Academy, 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%).

Professor Sir Robert Lechler PMedSci, President of the Academy of Medical Sciences, said: “This work shows research is a truly international endeavour. The ability to forge collaborations and to access talent across the globe is vital to ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of research and innovation.”

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%).

 For more information, please visit our policy page on research and the European Union.

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