European research is still too fragmented despite the best efforts of the EU, according to a new study.
Policy makers in Europe have long been encouraging the growth of lasting bonds between the research communities of different European nations, most notably with the launch of the European Research Area initiative in 2000 which aims to overcome national borders through directed funding, increased mobility, and streamlined innovation policies.
But according to research published today in journal Science, while research within the European Union has become more integrated 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," said one of the authors, economist Professor Fabio Pammoli of the IMT Institute for Advanced Studies in Lucca, Italy, "Europe remains a collection of loosely coupled national innovation systems."
Researchers analysed the evolution of geographical collaboration networks constructed from patent and scientific publication data over the period from 1995 to 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," said Prof 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 labour markets and, moreover, of pension and welfare systems."