The report, commissioned by the Royal Society, sought to better understand the patterns of mobility, drivers of and barriers to mobility, and the benefits and consequences of mobility of researchers.

This literature review shows that not only are the numbers of academic researchers increasing, but international mobility of researchers is becoming more common. This review identified five key findings:

  1. The UK is an attractive destination for researchers, and foreign researchers play an important role in the research system.
  2. Researchers’ decisions to move are complex and involve a range of personal and professional factors.
  3. As a popular destination country, the UK benefits from international mobility by gaining access to additional skills and expertise, but there are also benefits for source countries.
  4. International mobility is associated with improvements in researchers’ professional development and academic performance, though causality is difficult to establish.
  5. Further research is needed to deepen understanding of international mobility and to untangle the different outcomes and drivers of mobility between groups and in different contexts. There is also a particular gap in understanding of industry researchers.


  • The UK was the most popular Marie SkÅ‚odowska-Curie Action (MCSA) destination during the previous EU funding period of 2007-2013, with 5,736 researchers choosing the UK.
  • In terms of MCSA researcher flows within the EU, the UK had by far the highest net gain of researchers, with more than 3,600 researchers coming in from elsewhere in the EU and only 600 UK nationals going elsewhere in the EU.
  • In the specific case of the UK, researchers moving to or from Britain are found to have above average levels of citation impact (weighted for the field of publication).
  • Similarly, those leaving the UK and then returning have more than twice the average level of citations to their publications, while this group is also typically highly productive and relatively senior. This cannot be solely connected to mobility, as other social and personal factors have an impact on the quality of work published by researchers.

Following this literature review, a survey of UK academics was carried out, which can be found here. To read more publications from the Royal Society, visit their website.