How important are international collaborations for research in Switzerland and the UK?

Switzerland and the UK are partly barred from participation in the huge research programme Horizon Europe. This limits access to research funding for scientists in both countries and might hinder international collaborations in larger projects. The loss of these funding opportunities and a potential loss of EU collaborations might have a negative impact on these countries’ research output, which is why the topic has gained significant attention in science as well as politics. In a recent article we have shed light on the empirical distribution of international scientific collaborations of researchers in Switzerland and the UK and present the main findings in this blogpost.

The political discussion of the non-association of the UK and Switzerland to Horizon Europe has gained traction. There are, for example, considerations in the UK to seek other research alliances beyond the EU (https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2023/feb/12/eu-horizon-europe-research-michelle-donelan-uk-snub-brexit).We have even seen the Swedish Research Council trying to attract talents from Swiss universities to settle in Sweden and conduct their Horizon Europe projects there (https://www.vr.se/english/just-now/news/news-archive/2022-01-20-grant-for-recruiting-researchers-with-erc-grants.html). The international campaign “Stick to science” (https://stick-to-science.eu/) argued in favour of the full association of Switzerland and the UK to Horizon Europe. The political prevalence of the topic sparks the empirical question: How important are international collaborations for research in Switzerland and the UK?

Based on author affiliations in scientific publications the team for Knowledge Management at the ETH Zurich Library has analysed international collaborations of researchers at research institutions in Switzerland, the UK, Germany and Austria for the time frame from 2010 to 2021 (Dimensions data, see Hook et al., 2018). In all four countries, the proportion of publications resulting from international collaborations increased over these 11 years (Figure 1a). We also find an increasing importance of collaborations with researchers in the European Union: In 2021, almost 50 % of Swiss (and Austrian) publications were co-authored with researchers in other European countries (Figure 1b).

FIGURE 1

02_world-vs-eu_with-map_20230705f
Note: AT = Austria, CH = Switzerland, CN = China, DE = Germany, UK = United Kingdom, US = USA; Even though the UK was part of the EU until 2020, the UK was not included in the EU during the entire analysis; Figures based on data from Kubacka et al. (2023).

 

In the year 2021 an astonishing 70 % of publications of authors at Swiss research institutions were published together with authors at institutions in other countries (Figure 1). During the full analysed period (2010-2021) only about a third of Swiss publications had an exclusively Swiss authorship and almost half of the Swiss publications were co-authored with researchers residing in the EU (Figure 2).

FIGURE 2

01_authorships_pie_with_map_20230705f
Note: Figures based on data from Kubacka et al. (2023).

 

Since Switzerland and the UK were excluded from many EU programmes the number of collaborations with EU research institutions might shrink. The impact of this could potentially be alleviated if researchers in Switzerland and the UK were able to compensate lost EU collaborations with new collaborations with other institutions, for example, in the USA or China. However, we find that EU collaborations cannot easily be replaced by these countries (see Figure 3). The number of collaborations of Switzerland (and the UK) with China are still on such a low level that it would take a long time to have a substantial quantitative impact on research in Switzerland (or the UK, respectively). The proportion of collaborations between Switzerland (or the UK) and the US is much higher. Collaborations with the US might, over several years, be able to replace some of the lost collaborations with the EU.

FIGURE 3

03_country-collabs-4panels_20230705f
Note: AT = Austria, CH = Switzerland, CN = China, DE = Germany, UK = United Kingdom, US = USA; “EU27CH» refers to the combination of EU27 and Switzerland; for Switzerland “EU27CH” only refers to the EU27. Even though the UK was part of the EU until 2020, the UK was not included in the EU during the entire analysis; Figures based on data from Kubacka et al. (2023).

 

The content of this blog post is largely based on a journal article: Julian Dederke, David Johann, Teresa Kubacka, and Roland E. Suri (2023): Die Bedeutung internationaler wissenschaftlicher Kollaborationen für Schweizer Forschungsinstitutionen im Vergleich. Qualität in der Wissenschaft 1/2023, pp. 10–15 (https://doi.org/10.3929/ethz-b-000615298). Please cite the original study. Replication data and supplementary material can be found in the ETH Research Collection (https://doi.org/10.3929/ethz-b-000581024).

 

References

  • Hook, D. W., Porter, S. J., & Herzog, C. (2018). Dimensions: Building Context for Search and Evaluation. Frontiers in Research Metrics and Analytics, 3, 23. https://doi.org/10.3389/frma.2018.00023
  • Kubacka, T., Dederke, J., Johann, D., & Suri, R. E. (2023). Replication Data for paper ‘Die Bedeutung internationaler wissenschaftlicher Kollaborationen für Schweizer Forschungsinstitutionen im Vergleich’. Dataset. ETH Zurich Research Collection. https://doi.org/10.3929/ETHZ-B-000581024
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Dr Julian Dederke

Dr Julian Dederke works as a consultant for Knowledge Management and Research Data Management at the ETH Library. Prior to joining ETH Library, Julian completed his doctorate at ETH Zurich in Political Science. ORCiD: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4583-6720

1 thought on “How important are international collaborations for research in Switzerland and the UK?”

  1. Danke für den Post. Sie schreiben “Please cite the original study.” Ohne ETH-Konto erhält man aber leider keinen Zugriff darauf. Zumindest ist es mir verwehrt worden. Gibt es einen anderen Weg, die Analyse bereitzustellen?
    Danke und freundliche Grüsse,
    Franz Barjak

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