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.

Following the literature review conducted by RAND Europe, this survey aimed to address some gaps in existing research conducted into mobility of researchers. The survey provides an up-to-date picture of the patterns, drivers, barriers and perceived outcomes of mobility amongst the current UK academic research workforce. The report analysed 1,285 responses, and identified the following key findings:

  1. Most mobility to and from the UK involves a small set of western countries, and the US and Germany in particular.
  2. Patterns of mobility differ by gender, discipline, nationality and career stage.
  3. Professional motivations are the main drivers of mobility.
  4. Researchers stay in the UK – and return to the UK – for a mix of personal and professional reasons.
  5. Barriers to mobility depend on individual circumstances.
  6. Benefits and disadvantages of mobility tend to align with motivations.
  7. Most researchers feel that there is an expectation that good researchers are internationally mobile.


  • Respondents reported obtaining their highest degree in a total of 39 different countries, but the majority (62%) had done so in the UK.
  • More than 80% of researchers spending a period of time abroad believe it has had a positive effect on their careers.
  • Men were more likely to have spent a period of three years or more working outside the UK (39% vs 25% of women), though women were slightly more likely to have worked abroad for shorter periods.
  • Researchers are more likely to cite professional reasons to go overseas for work, but are more likely to return to the UK for a mixture of personal and professional reasons.

To read more publications from the Royal Society, visit their website