UK chemical research rated high, but international research cooperation is in trouble

The findings of the Research Excellence Framework demonstrate that the United Kingdom’s chemical research is outstandingly high quality – 45% of the UK’s academic contributions are rated ‘internationally excellent’ while 49% of them can be considered ‘world-leading’ – based on evaluations of research output impact and research environment. The area of chemistry performed slightly better than the overall average where ‘internationally excellent’ and ‘world leading’ research was 43% and 41% respectively. Tom Welton, president of the Royal society of Chemistry welcomed these results.

The bright results of the research, carried out by academics and research users, however, were overshadowed by a new UK graduate visa scheme that does not bode well for academic cooperation between the UK and the European Union. The controversial scheme allows ‘high potential individuals’ – graduates from top ranked global universities – to move to the UK even if they lack a job offer. However, it relies on metrics that “offer no meaningful measures of teaching quality” – according to Declaration on Research Assessment chair Stephen Curry. As a consequence of this, there is an overrepresentation of United States universities in the scheme, while there are only three European universities present – LMU Munich, Paris Sciences et Lettres University, and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. In addition to minimising research traffic between Europe and UK, the new visa scheme is said to exclude the global south as well.

Scientific cooperation between European countries and Great Britain is patchy since the latter’s departure from the European Union. Amongst other issues such as the one above, one of the key challenges is dealing with the difficulties regarding the UK’s ascension into Horizon Europe – ‘Stick to Science’, an initiative that calls EU institutions to accelerate this process garnered traction in earlier this year.

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