|European Research: Still Fragmented After All These Years|
For several decades now, European policy makers have committed themselves to encouraging the growth of lasting bonds between the research communities of different European nations. As a strategy for European economic growth, they've devised specific policies and funding programmes in an attempt to overcome the cultural differences and national boundaries that hamper the free flow of innovation within European Countries. Has it worked?
According to research published today in Science, nothing in the data on citations and patents in recent years shows any significant change in European research integration, despite all these efforts. Research within the European Union has become more integrated across national boundaries, but this integration has grown no faster within the EU that it has among non-EU nations belonging to the OECD.
"Despite all the effort and the monetary incentives to promote an integration of the European research system promoting cross national collaborative projects," says one of the authors, economist Fabio Pammoli of the IMT Institute for Advanced Studies in Lucca, Italy, "Europe remains a collection of loosely coupled national innovation systems."
As the study points out, one of the key policies designed to encourage integration and cross-border collaboration was adopted in 2000. The so-called European Research Area (ERA) initiative aimed to overcome national borders through directed funding, increased mobility of individual researchers, and streamlined policies for innovation. To judge whether this vision really had the intended effect, the researchers analyzed the evolution of geographical collaboration networks constructed from patent and scientific publication data over the period from 1995-2010. The results showed that European nations remain more or less as research "islands." Scientists collaborate and move within these boundaries, but rarely across them.
Worse yet, they also found that the growth of cross-border integration among different nations of the European Union seems to be no faster than growth among different nations elsewhere. Since 2003, cross-border links across European Union borders did not grow faster than did similar links among non-EU OECD countries.
"These results are striking" says Pammoli. "They are especially worrying given the substantial resources the EU has committed to promote cross-border scientific collaboration through the Framework Programs. Europe should aim at promoting fierce competition in grant allocation, portability of grants, mobility of skilled human capital through an harmonisation of selection and hiring decisions for both students and faculty, as well a stronger integration of labor markets and, moreover, of pension and welfare systems."
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