Cover: International Movement and Science

International Movement and Science

A survey of researchers by the Together Science Can campaign

Published Sep 17, 2018

by Gordon R. McInroy, Catherine A. Lichten, Becky Ioppolo, Sarah Parks, Susan Guthrie

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Research Questions

  1. What are the patterns, enablers, obstacles and outcomes of international movement for researchers?
  2. How do these patterns, enablers, obstacles and outcomes vary for researchers around the world?

RAND Europe conducted a survey of researchers worldwide on their experiences with visiting or relocating to other countries for research-related purposes. The survey covered 2,465 respondents from 109 countries. It was commissioned by the Wellcome Trust on behalf of the international Together Science Can campaign, and supports the campaign's work to celebrate and protect international collaboration in science.

Over three quarters of respondents had moved to live in another country for research training or work at some point during their career. More senior researchers tend to travel more frequently. Nearly all respondents stated that research benefits from researchers visiting or moving to other countries. They perceived that international movement had helped in forming collaborations and developing ideas, skills and expertise, but can also present challenges on a personal level. Reported barriers to international movement included access to funding, family responsibilities, lack of information about jobs abroad and visa-related obstacles. Respondents who were nationals of African and Asian countries generally encountered more obstacles to international movement than those from North America and Europe.

Key Findings

  • Three quarters of survey respondents have moved to live in another country for research purposes.
  • Career progression and international movement are correlated.
  • Students or those training to be researchers are the least likely to visit other countries for research purposes.
  • Europe is a particularly mobile and connected research community.
  • Respondents raised concerns about the effects of political developments, including the UK's decision to leave the EU and changes in the US political climate.
  • International travel and relocation are costly, and financial support is an important enabler of international movement.
  • African and Asian researchers are more likely to receive support from a funder than from their institution.
  • Visa requirements do not prevent most researchers from travelling, but visa applications can be prohibitively time consuming, complex and costly.
  • Researchers from Asia and Africa are much more likely to have visa-related challenges, particularly for short-term visits.
  • Family-related challenges are the most frequently cited obstacle to international relocation.
  • African researchers and those who have not moved previously are more likely to cite lack of information about jobs abroad as an obstacle to movement.
  • Many internationally mobile researchers have not faced travel obstacles; European researchers reported the fewest obstacles to travel, while African researchers reported the most.
  • International movement can have negative outcomes for individuals.
  • Nearly all researchers — whether they have experienced international movement or not — believe that international movement is important for research.
  • Researchers of all nationalities stated that international movement boosts research outcomes by forging new collaborations and developing ideas, skills and expertise.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was prepared for the Together Science Can and Wellcome Trust and conducted by RAND Europe.

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