2016 - All Press Releases

Nature Index shows significant increase in UK and EU collaboration

London, 16 November 2016

According to the Nature Index, collaboration between British and EU scientists increased over the four years prior to the UK’s Brexit vote.

The index’s data show that, on average, cross-channel partnerships were producing 26% more high-quality research in 2015 than in 2012, with the average collaboration score, as calculated by the Nature Index, 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.

These findings are featured in the Nature Index 2016 Collaborations supplement, which highlights some of the most fruitful research partnerships between countries or institutions by measuring each partner’s contribution to collaborative papers in the 68 high-quality journals selected for inclusion in the index. It uses data from the Nature Index, which tracks the high-quality research of more than 8,000 global institutions. (See 'About the Nature Index' for full definitions of measures.)

The supplement reveals that 700 UK institutions collaborated with EU institutions in 2015 to publish papers in the high-quality journals in the index, up from 651 in 2012. Overall, the UK’s strongest ties in the EU were with Germany, followed by France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands.

David Swinbanks, Founder of the Nature Index, said: "This Nature Index supplement shows that international collaboration is a consistent and rapidly growing feature of high-quality research worldwide. For the UK, this collaboration is increasingly focussed on Europe. It is not surprising therefore that any uncertainty linked to Brexit is giving cause for concern.”

A report published by Digital Science in May, Examining Implications of Brexit for the UK Research Base, estimated that Brexit could create a £1 billion funding gap for UK researchers. The UK’s leading universities could be amongst the hardest hit. Nature Index data show that the universities of Cambridge and Oxford, for example, were the UK’s most enthusiastic collaborators with other EU countries, making up 48 of the 100 most productive partnerships between two institutions (one from the UK, one from the EU) publishing papers together in top journals. According to Digital Science, Cambridge receives 20% of its academic research funding from the EU, and Oxford 23%.

The French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) has the highest overall average collaboration score, followed by Italy’s National Institute for Astrophysics, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Max Planck Institute. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is sixth. Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT) lead the global tables for the most productive collaboration between any two institutions worldwide. At a national level, the partnerships between the United States’ and China’s institutions produce more high-quality research than any other.

More information about the Nature Index is available at natureindex.com.


For more information, contact:

Mark Staniland
Senior Communications Manager, Nature Research
T: +44 (0)207 014 6630
E: mark.staniland@nature.com

Notes to editors:

About the Nature Index

First launched in November 2014, the Nature Index database tracks the author affiliations of research articles published in a group of 68 high-quality natural science journals, which have been selected by independent panels of active scientists.

Responses from over 2,800 individuals to a large scale survey were used to validate the selections. Springer Nature estimates that these 68 journals account for nearly 30% of total citations to natural science journals.

A rolling 12-month window of Nature Index data is made available openly under a Creative Commons license at natureindex.com, allowing users to analyse research outputs from, and collaboration among, 8,000 institutions and 150 countries. On the index website, an institution's output of articles organised by broad subject area can be viewed across the most recent 12 month period. International and domestic collaborations are shown for each institution. The website also presents annual league tables of institutions and countries going back to 2012. Upon free registration of the website, users are able to plot longitudinal trends in output for institutions and countries, and export raw data for further analysis.

The Nature Index uses four counts of article output:

• Article count (AC) - A country or institution is given an AC of 1 for each article that has at least one author from that country or institution. This is the case whether an article has one or a hundred authors, and it means that the same article can contribute to the AC of multiple countries or institutions.

• Fractional Count (FC) - FC takes into account the relative contribution of each author to an article. The maximum FC per paper is 1, and this is shared between all authors under the assumption that each contributed equally. For instance, each author on a paper with 10 authors would receive a FC of 0.1.

• Weighted Fractional Count (WFC) - applies a weighting to FC to adjust for an overrepresentation of papers from astronomy and astrophysics. The four journals in these disciplines publish about 50% of all papers in international journals in this field — approximately five times the equivalent figures for other fields. Therefore, although the data for astronomy and astrophysics are compiled in exactly the same way as for all other disciplines, articles from these journals are assigned one-fifth the weight of other articles.

• Collaboration scores (CS): The collaborative effort between two institutions, or two countries, is known as a bilateral collaboration score. This is the sum of the FCs from papers with authors from both institutions. The collaborative effort of an individual institution is measured by an average collaboration score. This is the average of the FCs for all the bilateral relationships for that institution. If institution A has relationships with two others, B and C, then the collaboration score is average of the FC for A + B and A + C.

About Nature Research

Nature Research is a portfolio of high quality products and services across the life, physical, chemical and applied sciences, including journals, online databases and researcher services, which are dedicated to serving the scientific community. Nature (founded in 1869) is the leading weekly, international scientific journal and sits at the heart of the brand. Nature Research also publishes a range of Nature branded research and reviews subscription journals, alongside leading open access multidisciplinary journal Nature Communications and other open access journals, including mega journal Scientific Reports and a range of partner journals known collectively as the Nature Partner Journals. Online, nature.com provides over 8 million visitors per month with access to Nature Research publications and services, including news and comment from Nature, and the leading scientific jobs board Naturejobs. Nature Research also offers a range of researcher services, including online and in-person training and expert language and editing services.

Nature Research is part of Springer Nature, a leading global research, educational and professional publisher. Springer Nature is the world's largest academic book publisher, publisher of the world's most influential journals and a pioneer in the field of open research. The company numbers almost 13,000 staff in over 50 countries. Springer Nature was formed in 2015 through the merger of Nature Publishing Group, Palgrave Macmillan, Macmillan Education and Springer Science+Business Media.

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