Researchers from Queen’s University Belfast, King's College London and the University of Leeds have produced evidence on the positive benefit that non-UK born researchers have on cancer research in the United Kingdom.
The study, published in Lancet Oncology, shows papers that include non-UK European Union (EU)-born authors have a much greater scientific impact, being more likely to be published in top tier journals.
The study evaluated the impact of researchers with non-UK-originating names on the number and quality of UK-produced cancer research papers recorded on Web of Science in 2009-2011 and 2014-2016.
It found non-UK researchers contributed to 77% of all UK cancer research papers between 2009 and 2011, and 49% of UK cancer research teams in this period included European researchers.
The addition of a European-named researcher to a United Kingdom team positively affected the study’s impact factor, with significantly more papers published in top tier journals and fewer in the lowest category journals, than expected (P<.001>
Professor Mark Lawler, from Queen’s University Belfast, said: “The challenge of cancer is so great, it is critical that we bring together the best minds to find the best solutions to improve cancer outcomes for our citizens. Currently, in the United Kingdom, we attract high-quality talent, both from the United Kingdom and elsewhere in the EU, and that is why we are a powerhouse for cancer research across Europe.
“The ‘Brexit effect’ on our research reputation could be catastrophic, and given that high-quality research underpins better cancer outcomes, we risk undermining the cancer care of our patients.”
The study indicates the loss of human capital arising from restrictions on free movement post-Brexit could have serious ramifications for the quality and impact of UK cancer research.