The Demography of the Peripatetic Researcher: Evidence on Highly Mobile Scholars from the Web of Science

  • Samin ArefEmail author
  • Emilio Zagheni
  • Jevin West
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 11864)


The policy debate around researchers’ geographic mobility has been moving away from a theorized zero-sum game in which countries can be winners (“brain gain”) or losers (“brain drain”), and toward the concept of “brain circulation,” which implies that researchers move in and out of countries and everyone benefits. Quantifying trends in researchers’ movements is key to understanding the drivers of the mobility of talent, as well as the implications of these patterns for the global system of science, and for the competitive advantages of individual countries. Existing studies have investigated bilateral flows of researchers. However, in order to understand migration systems, determining the extent to which researchers have worked in more than two countries is essential. This study focuses on the subgroup of highly mobile researchers whom we refer to as “peripatetic researchers” or “super-movers.”

More specifically, our aim is to track the international movements of researchers who have published in more than two countries through changes in the main affiliation addresses of over 62 million publications indexed in the Web of Science database over the 1956–2016 period. Using this approach, we have established a longitudinal dataset on the international movements of highly mobile researchers across all subject categories, and in all disciplines of scholarship. This article contributes to the literature by offering for the first time a snapshot of the key features of highly mobile researchers, including their patterns of migration and return migration by academic age, the relative frequency of their disciplines, and the relative frequency of their countries of origin and destination. Among other findings, the results point to the emergence of a global system that includes the USA and China as two large hubs, and England and Germany as two smaller hubs for highly mobile researchers.


High-skilled migration Big data Bibliometric data Web of Science Science of science 



The authors thank the anonymous referees for their comments, and Chowdhury Majedur Rahman for assistance with the data quality checks. SA and EZ designed and conducted the research and wrote the paper. JW contributed in extracting the data.

Supplementary material


  1. 1.
    Alburez-Gutierrez, D., Aref, S., Gil-Clavel, S., Grow, A., Negraia, D., Zagheni, E.: Demography in the digital era: new data sources for population research. In: Arbia, G., Peluso, S., Pini, A., Rivellini, G. (eds.) Book of Short Papers SIS2019, pp. 23–30. Pearson (2019).
  2. 2.
    Appelt, S., van Beuzekom, B., Galindo-Rueda, F., de Pinho, R.: Which factors influence the international mobility of research scientists? In: Geuna, A. (ed.) Global Mobility of Research Scientists, pp. 177–213. Academic Press, San Diego (2015). Scholar
  3. 3.
    Aref, S., Friggens, D., Hendy, S.: Analysing scientific collaborations of New Zealand institutions using Scopus bibliometric data. In: Proceedings of the Australasian Computer Science Week Multiconference, p. 49. ACM, New York (2018).
  4. 4.
    Arrieta, O.A.D., Pammolli, F., Petersen, A.M.: Quantifying the negative impact of brain drain on the integration of European science. Sci. Adv. 3(4), e1602232 (2017). Scholar
  5. 5.
    Cañibano, C., Vértesy, D., Vezzulli, A.: An inquiry into the return mobility of scientific researchers in Europe. JRC Technical reports (2017).
  6. 6.
    Cañibano, C., Otamendi, F.J., Solís, F.: International temporary mobility of researchers: a cross-discipline study. Scientometrics 89(2), 653–675 (2011). CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Chinchilla-Rodríguez, Z., Miao, L., Murray, D., Robinson-García, N., Costas, R., Sugimoto, C.R.: Networks of international collaboration and mobility: a comparative study. In: Proceedings of the 16th International Conference on Scientometrics & Informetrics, pp. 270–280 (2017). 10261/170060Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Conchi, S., Michels, C.: Scientific mobility: an analysis of Germany, Austria, France and Great Britain. Fraunhofer ISI Discussion Papers (2014).
  9. 9.
    Czaika, M.: High-skilled Migration: Drivers and Policies. Oxford University Press, New York (2018). Scholar
  10. 10.
    Czaika, M., Orazbayev, S.: The globalisation of scientific mobility, 1970–2014. Appl. Geogr. 96, 1–10 (2018). Scholar
  11. 11.
    Dyachenko, E.L.: Internal migration of scientists in Russia and the USA: the case of physicists. Scientometrics 113(1), 105–122 (2017). Scholar
  12. 12.
    Franzoni, C., Scellato, G., Stephan, P.: The mover’s advantage: the superior performance of migrant scientists. Econ. Lett. 122(1), 89–93 (2014). Scholar
  13. 13.
    Franzoni, C., Scellato, G., Stephan, P.: International mobility of research scientists: lessons from GlobSci. In: Global Mobility of Research Scientists, pp. 35–65. Elsevier (2015). Scholar
  14. 14.
    Freeman, L.C.: Centrality in social networks conceptual clarification. Soc. Netw. 1(3), 215–239 (1978)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Hadiji, F., Mladenov, M., Bauckhage, C., Kersting, K.: Computer science on the move: inferring migration regularities from the web via compressed label propagation. In: Proceedings of the 24th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence, IJCAI 2015, pp. 171–177. AAAI Press, Palo Alto (2015).
  16. 16.
    Laudel, G.: Studying the brain drain: can bibliometric methods help? Scientometrics 57(2), 215–237 (2003). Scholar
  17. 17.
    Marmolejo-Leyva, R., Perez-Angon, M.A., Russell, J.M.: Mobility and international collaboration: case of the Mexican scientific diaspora. PLoS One 10(6), e0126720 (2015). Scholar
  18. 18.
    Massey, D.S., Arango, J., Hugo, G., Kouaouci, A., Pellegrino, A., Taylor, J.E.: Theories of international migration: a review and appraisal. Popul. Dev. Rev. 19(3), 431–466 (1993)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Moed, H.F., Aisati, M., Plume, A.: Studying scientific migration in Scopus. Scientometrics 94(3), 929–942 (2013). Scholar
  20. 20.
    Moed, H.F., Halevi, G.: A bibliometric approach to tracking international scientific migration. Scientometrics 101(3), 1987–2001 (2014). Scholar
  21. 21.
    Robinson-García, N., Cañibano, C., Woolley, R., Costas, R.: Scientific mobility of early career researchers in Spain and the Netherlands through their publications. In: 21st International Conference on Science and Technology Indicators-STI 2016, Book of Proceedings, Valencia, Spain (2016).
  22. 22.
    Robinson-García, N., Sugimoto, C.R., Murray, D., Yegros-Yegros, A., Larivière, V., Costas, R.: The many faces of mobility: using bibliometric data to measure the movement of scientists. J. Inf. 13(1), 50–63 (2019). Scholar
  23. 23.
    Rosenfeld, R.A., Jones, J.A.: Patterns and effects of geographic mobility for academic women and men. J. High. Educ. 58(5), 493–515 (1987). Scholar
  24. 24.
    Scellato, G., Franzoni, C., Stephan, P.: Migrant scientists and international networks. Res. Policy 44(1), 108–120 (2015). Scholar
  25. 25.
    Sugimoto, C.R., Larivière, V.: Measuring Research: What Everyone Needs to Know. Oxford University Press, New York (2018)Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Sugimoto, C.R., Robinson-García, N., Murray, D.S., Yegros-Yegros, A., Costas, R., Larivière, V.: Scientists have most impact when they’re free to move. Nat. News 550(7674), 29 (2017). Scholar
  27. 27.
    Thelwall, M.: Dimensions: a competitor to scopus and the web of science? J. Inf. 12(2), 430–435 (2018). Scholar
  28. 28.
    Toma, S., Villares-Varela, M.: Internationalization and diversification of academic careers. In: High-Skilled Migration: Drivers and Policies. Oxford University Press, New York (2018).
  29. 29.
    United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division: World population prospects 2019 (2019). Accessed 1 July 2019
  30. 30.
    Vaccario, G., Verginer, L., Schweitzer, F.: Reproducing scientists’ mobility: a data-driven model. arXiv preprint arXiv:1811.07229 (2018)
  31. 31.
    Vaccario, G., Verginer, L., Schweitzer, F.: The mobility network of scientists: analyzing temporal correlations in scientific careers. arXiv preprint arXiv:1905.06142 (2019)
  32. 32.
    Van Noorden, R.: Global mobility: science on the move. Nat. News 490(7420), 326 (2012). Scholar
  33. 33.
    Willekens, F., Massey, D., Raymer, J., Beauchemin, C.: International migration under the microscope. Science 352(6288), 897–899 (2016). Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for Demographic ResearchRostockGermany
  2. 2.Information School, University of WashingtonSeattleUSA

Personalised recommendations