17 Nov 2016   |   News

Rise in research ties between UK and rest of the EU prior to Brexit vote

According to new Nature Index, collaboration between scientists in the UK and those elsewhere in the EU increased over the past four years

Research collaborations between the UK and the rest of the EU have been on the rise for the past four years, new data shows.

On average, cross-Channel partnerships were producing 26 per cent more high-quality research in 2015 than in 2012, with the average collaboration score, as calculated by the Nature Index 2016, increasing from 120 to 152.

In contrast, the score for UK collaborations with the rest of the world has remained between 40 and 50 since 2012.

The Nature Index spotlights some of the most fruitful partnerships between countries or institutions by measuring each partner’s presence in 68 journals.

Compromised by Brexit

The Nature Index says the increase in partnerships, “Mostly boils down to money, free movement and broad collaborations,” all of which would be compromised when the UK leaves the EU and cuts itself out of its funding schemes.

With UK research collaboration increasingly focused on Europe, David Swinbanks of the Nature Index said, “It is not surprising that any uncertainty linked to Brexit is giving cause for concern.”

Researchers have been awaiting details of the country’s plans for leaving the EU, and this new data could strengthen the argument for a soft Brexit, which would allow the UK to retain access to EU research grants.

The Nature research shows 700 UK institutions had collaborations with institutions elsewhere in the EU in 2015, up from 651 in 2012.

Overall, the UK’s strongest ties were with Germany, followed by France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands.

The universities of Cambridge and Oxford were the UK’s most enthusiastic collaborators with other EU countries, accounting for 48 of the 100 most productive partnerships.

The French National Centre for Scientific Research has the highest overall average collaboration score, followed by Italy’s National Institute for Astrophysics, CERN, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Max Planck Institute.

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