An EU without the UK: mapping the UK’s changing roles in the EU scientific research


In science, technology and innovation, the consequences of Britain’s exit (Brexit) for both Britain and the Europe Union (EU) are still uncertain. However, there is no doubt that in the years to come, the UK will need to re-calibrate its scientific collaborations with other EU countries. In this research, we aim to identify which EU countries would suffer the greatest loss and which research fields would be most affected by Brexit. Based on the scientific output of each EU country, as indexed by the Web of Science, we demonstrate that international scientific collaboration frequently involves the UK. We also define four types of roles according to the UK’s performance in production and collaboration; these roles are of great significance to our understanding of the status of the UK in the EU. In this sense, the UK acted as a leader in health sciences, a pioneer in social sciences, an assistant in physical sciences, and a participant in engineering.

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The authors thank two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments and suggestions. This research was supported by the Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) under Grant Nos. 71503031 and 71673038, as well as the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation under Grant No. 2016M591435.

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Correspondence to Zhigang Hu or Xianwen Wang.

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Hu, Z., Lin, G., Sun, T. et al. An EU without the UK: mapping the UK’s changing roles in the EU scientific research. Scientometrics 115, 1185–1198 (2018).

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  • Brexit
  • Scientific collaboration
  • European Union
  • United Kingdom