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When international collaboration creates Chemistry

With no clear end in sight in Brexit negotiations, the impact on scientific collaboration, funding, and mobility between the UK and the rest of the EU remains largely unclear. Moreover, trialogue negotiations between the European Council, European Parliament, and the European Commission are moving forward, meaning that the future research framework programme, Horizon Europe, is aimed at being finalised in the coming months (although the risk that the debate is not finalised before the May European Parliament elections cannot be discounted either). The UK’s participation in the programme continues to remain speculative.

In August 2018, EuChemS published its Position Paper on Horizon Europe, stating that the programme should enable countries that had previously participated in EU research framework programmes (such as Horizon2020) be allowed to do so in the future. More recently, EuChemS Member Society the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), published a short report which looks at the benefits of international collaboration. The report draws on the key findings of 10 in-depth case studies with chemical researchers and entrepreneurs in the UK and in Europe.

The work also features an analysis of the impact of international collaboration on mean citations across the RSC’s journals portfolio. The findings demonstrate that international collaborations are associated with more impactful science, with the reputation and standing of some streams of EU funding acting as an international badge of quality. Papers co-authored by researchers based in different countries or regions have a high number of mean citations that those with authors from a single country or region. The high impact is also exemplified by figures showing that papers authored by researchers in the UK in RSC journals, had a higher number of mean citations when funded by the EU than by the UK government alone.

The importance for both the UK and the EU that UK scientists are able to participate in Horizon Europe cannot be stressed enough. The RSC has issued a number of recommendations, very much in line with their position on Horizon Europe.

  • Horizon Europe should continue to support excellence and international collaboration to benefit Europe’s science and innovation base and its citizens.
  • The UK should associate to Horizon Europe to preserve and enhance these international collaborations, since they bring many reciprocal benefits to both the UK and the European Union.
  • To support this, the UK government needs to put in place an agile, welcoming mobility framework for science that enables the easy movement of scientists and their families.