Homecoming after Brexit: evidence on academic migration from bibliometric data

August 25, 2022 by SofC Staff

School of Cities' new faculty affiliate, Samin Aref recently conducted a research study involving an analysis of large-scale data (affiliations from millions of scientific publications) to quantify the effects of the Brexit referendum on international migrations of researchers to and from the UK. Focusing on a selected sample of active researchers whose movements are traceable for every year between 2013 and 2019, he measured the changes in their international migration patterns to find some fascinating insights.

Abstract

This study assesses the initial effects of the 2016 Brexit referendum on the mobility of academic scholars to and from the United Kingdom (UK). We leverage bibliometric data from millions of Scopus publications to infer changes in the countries of residence of published researchers by the changes in their institutional affiliations over time. We focus on a selected sample of active researchers whose movements are traceable for every year between 2013 and 2019, and measure the changes in their international migration patterns. While we do not observe a brain drain following Brexit, we find evidence that the mobility patterns of scholars began to change following the referendum. Among the active researchers in our sample, we find that their probability of leaving the UK increased by approximately 86% if their academic origin (country of first publication) was an EU country. For scholars with a UK academic origin, we observe that after Brexit, their probability of leaving the UK decreased by approximately 14%, and their probability of moving (back) to the UK increased by around 65%. Our analysis points to a compositional change in the academic origins of the researchers entering and leaving the UK as one of the first impacts of Brexit on the UK and EU academic workforce.

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