Scotland's place in Europe: science and research

Our latest analysis of the implications for Scotland’s science and research if the UK exits the European Union.

The Value of International Research Collaborations to Scotland

International collaborations are a key factor in academic success and research excellence. Scottish universities and other research organisations recognise that and are therefore international in their outlook.

The fact that research with international partners has greater impact was highlighted in a key report for the UK Government: International Comparative Performance of the UK Research Base, Elsevier, 2016.

“Scientific research and innovation are crucial for tackling the many shared challenges we face [..] To meet these challenges for everyone’s benefit, science needs to flourish and that requires the flow of people and ideas across borders to allow the rapid exchange of ideas, expertise and technology”

Letter by 29 European Nobel Prize-Winning Scientists to the Prime Minister, 19 October 2018

It also showed that international collaboration goes hand in hand with researcher mobility, and that such mobility increases the value of research. Researchers in the UK who had worked in other countries were found to be the most productive amongst their peers.

Scotland’s research excellence was confirmed again recently in the THE World University Rankings 2019. Three universities in Scotland are in the global top 200 for research volume, income and reputation, and four in the global top 200 for research influence (based on citations).

This research success may be partly explained by the even more impressive ranking of Scottish universities for international outlook covering staff, students and research. Here Scotland really excels, with nine universities in the global top 200.

This outlook includes active engagement by Scotland in European research and innovation programmes, including Horizon 2020. As the evidence quoted above shows, the impact of reduced participation in such programmes goes well beyond the funding aspects alone. A reduction in European research collaborations and researcher mobility between Scotland and the rest of Europe is likely to lead to a weakening of our research productivity and excellence.


Email: Pieter van de Graaf

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