Moving university ‘increases research output and impact’

But transferring to an institution in another country generally has less of a ‘positive impact’, finds paper

June 20, 2016
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Academics looking to increase their publication output and impact should consider moving university, according to the findings of a recent paper.

The study, “Does research mobility have an effect on productivity and impact?”, published in International Higher Education, found that researchers who have worked in at least two institutions generally publish more research and are more frequently cited.

The research collected data on the number of publications and citations for 700 top-producing researchers across seven disciplines between 2010 and 2015, in addition to their university and country affiliations, using Elsevier’s SciVal database. The subjects included neuroscience, mechanical engineering, arts and humanities, oncology, environmental geology, business and infectious diseases.

The study found that academics in mechanical engineering, arts and humanities, oncology and infectious diseases receive the most benefit from several university affiliations, with all researchers evaluated in the last two subjects having at least two affiliations on their profiles.

However, although the paper found a link between domestic mobility and research productivity and impact, mobility between countries did not have a significant effect, except in environmental geology, arts and humanities, and business.

Gali Halevi, chief director of the Levy Library at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, and co-author of the paper, suggested that these disciplines might benefit more from international mobility because they are more global in nature.

“Arts and humanities, for example, is related to culture and literature, so if you travel that usually enriches your experience. Some areas like engineering – not so much,” she told Times Higher Education.

In contrast, researchers in infectious diseases saw the most benefit when moving between two universities in one country. She suggested that this was because remaining within one country enables these academics to gain more in-depth knowledge in one area.

She added that international mobility might generally have less of a short-term effect on academic success than domestic mobility because of the “period of adjustment” required for researchers. Nevertheless, she said, moving country can provide other benefits such as enabling researchers to “expand your collaboration network” and “work with new people and new regions”.

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