EU Science Hub

Maximising the impact of science: the EU’s open approach

The study by the JRC and Ohio State University shows a strong relationship between the openness of a nation and the impact of its research. The study by the JRC and Ohio State University shows a strong relationship between the openness of a nation and the impact of its research.
©Fotolia, Alex Traksel
Oct 06 2017

Countries hoping to boost scientific impact should favour international exchange and collaboration, according to the latest joint research from the JRC and Ohio State University, published this week in Nature.

The research offers strong support to the open rationale of the European Commission's research funding programmes in Horizon 2020.

The study shows a strong relationship between the openness of a nation and the impact of its research. This correlation holds regardless of a country’s spending on research and development (R&D) or the number of articles it publishes.

On the occasion of the publication Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, responsible for the Joint Research Centre, and Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said:

"In research and innovation, cooperation across disciplines and countries is a must. That is one of the many areas where the EU has a clear added value as Member States perform exceptionally well thanks to the enhanced collaboration within the Union and with third countries. It unquestionably helps our researchers produce world changing science and our public and private sectors to improve people's lives.

In fact the EU-28 has maintained its share of the world's top 10% most highly cited scientific publications, in the face of strong competition from China and elsewhere. Across five different locations in the EU 2000 researchers from the Commission's Joint Research Centre support European policy makers with the best available science.

We are particularly proud of the role played by the Commission's research and innovation programmes Horizon 2020, and the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, which has enabled more than 100,000 research fellows to work abroad since its launch 20 years ago. As two very recent examples, EU funded scientists have participated in the ground-breaking research that led to this year's Nobel Prizes in Physics for the discovery of gravitational waves and in Chemistry for the development of cryo-electron microscopy. We warmly congratulate the researchers on their achievement".

The authors of the study analyse science expenditure and article and citation data for 2.5 million scholarly publications from 2013 across 33 countries. They also combined metrics of international co-authorship and the mobility of the research workforce.

The researchers believe the correlation exists because open countries produce highly creative and innovative science. Some small nations, such as Switzerland, Denmark and the Netherlands, punch above their weight in terms of population size and science spending. Others — notably South Korea — are making less of an impact despite their R&D spending being comparatively high.

EU Member States also perform well together. Unlike the US, the EU-28 has maintained its share of the world's top 10% most highly cited publications, in the face of strong competition from China and elsewhere.

Continuing to be open to the world - maximising collaboration in European research systems through enhanced cooperation within the EU and with third countries - is likely to further enhance the scientific performance of the EU and its Member States.

JRC external evaluation report

In the same issue of Nature, an editorial comments on the recently published JRC Implementation Review 2017. The author credited the JRC for having broken silos and restructured thematically into departments closely mirroring policy areas. Furthermore, the text acknowledges the increased presence of JRC's work in the world's top-cited scientific literature, underpinned by its vast network of partnerships with European universities and research institutes as well as by participation of scientists in exchange programmes.

The editorial also mentions the importance of exploratory research for the JRC’s ability to flag up hot topics to policymakers earlier. And indeed, at least 20% of JRC’s work is on forward looking projects and it is continuously strengthening its anticipatory capacity to help the Commission in shaping public debates and proposing new narratives. This allows factoring scientific evidence into the mix of facts and values that is essential to policymaking in democratic communities