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Benefits and implications of EU and global collaboration by UK universities

Published on 1 March 2016

Digital Research Report, "UK Universities, International Collaboration and Research Assessment"

London: March 1st 2016: Digital Science and the UK Higher Education International Unit today report on UK Universities, International Collaboration and Research Assessment, focusing on international academic collaboration across the UK research base and on the implications of EU and global collaboration for universities, research assessment and the economy.

The report highlights the rapid growth of EU and global collaboration, from less than 10% to more than half of all academic research. Today, the majority of our international collaborative partners in research are in other EU member states and this is the fastest growing part of the research base. Collaborative research also has a far greater impact than other research activity.

The main findings of the report highlight how:

  • Knowledge capacity is compromised by a failure to be active internationally. The emergence of international knowledge networks (a 'Fourth Age' of research) means that UK universities need to develop strategies to expand international engagement to remain competitive in accessing resources.
  • Research rankings will be unable to provide proper comparisons. International collaboration is now so common, and covers so much of the most highly-cited output, that no analysis or profile can be exclusively attributable to any single country or university.
  • Owning knowledge assets is less important than having the right skills to use them.  If research is shared then its content and IP is shared.The agility to exploit knowledge ahead of competitors is critically important. A flourishing university research base provides an ideal environment for developing knowledge-competent people with the skills that our European competitive economies require.  

Jonathan Adams, Chief Scientist, Digital Science says of the report:

"Universities must recognise the implications of the 'Fourth Age' of research - where knowledge is generated by international teams, and international collaboration is the only way to be part of this. Research funders also have to recognise the fact that knowledge is shared so agility in use of this knowledge, not ownership of it, is the route to exploiting assets - this is a key priority for Higher Education. Governments need to acknowledge that they can no longer get simple numbers on their research 'performance', when this performance is truly international."

Vivienne Stern, Director, UK Higher Education International Unit says:  

"Universities bring together researchers from across the world, pooling expertise, data and resource, and enabling them to achieve more together than they could alone. In a world where many of the challenges we face are global - from cancer to climate change - it is more important than ever that we work alongside our international partners. For the UK to sustain its international reputation, we need to maintain and increase our global research collaboration."


You can download the report via Figshare here.

About Digital Science

Digital Science is a technology company serving the needs of scientific and research communities, at the laboratory bench or in a research setting. It invests in and incubates scientific software companies that simplify the research cycle, making more time for discovery. Its portfolio companies include a host of leading and admired brands including Altmetric, BioRAFT, Figshare, Labguru, Overleaf, ReadCube, Symplectic and ÜberResearch. It is operated by global media company, the Holtzbrinck Publishing Group. Visit and follow @digitalsci on Twitter.

About Universities UK

Universities UK (UUK) is the representative organisation for the UK's universities. Founded in 1918, its mission is to be the voice for all universities in the UK, providing high quality leadership and support to its members to promote a successful and diverse higher education sector. With 133 members and offices in London, Cardiff (Universities Wales) and Edinburgh (Universities Scotland), it promotes the strength and success of UK universities nationally and internationally.

About The UK Higher Education International Unit

The UK Higher Education International Unit represents UK universities globally and helps them meet their international aims.We do this by actively promoting our universities abroad, providing trusted information for and about them, and create new opportunities through our ability to act at sector level.We draw on UK university expertise to influence policy in the UK and overseas and to deliver information, advice and guidance to enable collaboration with the broadest possible range of international partners for mutual benefit.

Find us on Twitter @InternationalUt,

For further information, or if you would like to receive a printed copy of this report, please contact:

Laura Wheeler, Community Manager, Digital Science, @LauraWheelers


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