International Science Affiliations (ISA) Survey: Results


The main survey results are presented in four parts:

The figures presented here provide a first overview over some of the main results of this survey. For further analyses and research results related to this project please check our publications page.

Notes: All figures are interactive. You may deselect information by clicking on the different categories.




Part A: Sampling and response rates

In June to August 2016, we conducted an online survey of corresponding authors in five scientific disciplines: biology, chemistry, engineering, economics & business, and history. In order to construct the sample, we first selected all journals classified by the 2013 Journal Citation Report (Thomson Reuters) as belonging to the five fields and sorted them by eigenfactor score in each of the disciplines. The eigenfactor score is a rating of journal importance based on the number of incoming, journal-weighted citations that enables us to consider journals across all quality spectra. From each quartile of the eigenfactor distribution we randomly drew five journals, 20 in total for each field. As the number of articles in the selected journals was very low for engineering, economics & business and history, we drew additional journals in these fields resulting in 40 journals in engineering, 80 in economics & business, and 40 in history. The process resulted in five samples of journals by field, stratified by eigenfactor score. Historians were not surveyed in the case of Japan due to the low number of articles in WOS listed journals.

Articles published in each of the selected journals and with a reprint address in a university or public research organisation in Germany, Japan or the UK were downloaded from the Web of Science (WoS) for the years 2013 to 2015. We retrieved the email addresses of the corresponding authors. After some manual cleaning, we were left with a final list of 8,916 corresponding authors.

The survey consisted of four sections and was designed to be completed in 10-20 minutes. The questions sought to discover involvement in multiple affiliations and how and why these affiliations were formed as well as involvement in and the organisation of data sharing. The survey was conducted in German, Japanese and English through the platform LimeSurvey. The emails containing the survey link were sent from the personal email accounts of the principal investigators; they explained how email addresses were collected and provided a survey opt-out function.

Figures A1 and A2 report survey responses by country and discipline. Overall, about 12.1% of the survey emails were not delivered due to expired email addresses. The bounce rate is highest for emails collected from 2013 publications (17.9%) but still 7.2% for 2015 publications. It is highest for the UK at 14.3% and in engineering with 19.3%. These bounce rates are in line with a recent OECD survey which reports an average rate of 12% (Boselli and Galindo-Rueda, 2016). A systematic study of 'email decay rates' showed that almost one quarter of correspondence email addresses in MEDLINE in 2004 became defunct within a year of publication (Wren et al., 2006). The rates experienced in this survey are therefore within expectations.

We received 2,389 responses indicating an overall response rate of 26.8%, or 30.5% after taking into account undelivered emails. The corrected response rate for the survey is 36.6% in Japan and 31.1% in Germany and 24.5 in the UK (see Figure A1). The response rate is lowest in biology with 29% and highest in history with 35% (Figure A2). Figure A3 shows that subject response rates differ significantly by country with Japan having the highest and UK the lowest response rate in all subjects. For example, the response rate in engineering is above 42% in Japan but only 22% in the UK.




Part B: Personal Questions and Employment Situation

Figures B1 and B2 report the respondent gender distribution by country and discipline. The majority of respondents in all three subsamples are male, on average 81.6%. The share of female researchers is highest among UK respondents (28.1%) and lowest among respondents from Japan (6.9%). Comparing distributional patterns by journal field we find that he share of female researchers is highest in history and economics & business studies with 37.9% and 27.4% respectively. The share is lowest in engineering with just 12.5%

Figure B3 shows the respondent age distribution by country. Respondents in Japan are on average older than those located in Germany or in the UK. The age distribution for Germany and the UK is rather similar. Figures B4 to B6 show the respondents by current job position separately for each country. The majority of respondents are full professors, ranging from 31.6% in the UK to about 43.3% in Japan. PhD students in Germany make up around 9% of respondents, in contrast to just 1% in Japan and 2.6% in the UK. The share of respondents with a non-academic job is small and similar in all three countries (2.5% in Japan, 2.6% in Germany and 1.7% in the UK).

In all three countries, most respondents work full time and have permanent contracts (see Figures B7 and B8). However, in Germany the share of respondents working part-time or on fixed-term contracts (without permanent employment prospects) is higher than in Japan or the UK.

The survey further asked respondents how their research is funded and how they spend their work time. The majority of funding comes directly from the university or from public research sponsors in all three countries (Figure B9). Funding from government agencies is more prominent in Japan, while in the UK funding from non-profit sector makes up about 9% of funding. Germany and UK respondents also benefit from international funding, primarily from the EU. Contracts with industry are of less importance. In Japan, donations from business constitute a significant chunk of research income, however. Differentiating by subject (Figure B10) we find that external funding is of greater importance in biology, chemistry and engineering, compared to the social sciences. Engineering respondents also report a higher share of funding from business and government. In terms of work time distribution during a typical month (Figure B11), respondents spend most of their time on research and teaching/supervision. Respondents in Japan are somewhat more involved in teaching, while those in in Germany and the UK provide more supervision.




Part C: Institutional Affiliation

The results from a bibliometric analysis by the project partners showed that multiple affiliations have become more widespread (Hottenrott and Lawson, 2017, Scientometrics). The survey investigated the extent to which multiple institutional affiliations occur in different disciplines and countries without relying solely on affiliation information stated on publications. Figure C1 shows the share of respondents who at least once were affiliated to more than one organisation or centre (also within the same institution) during their career. The breakdown shows that multiple affiliations are most common in history (54.5%) and in economics & business studies (45.9%) and least frequent, but still remarkably high, in engineering (33.1%). This pattern is consistent across countries.

Figures C2 and C3 show the share of respondents with an addition affiliation within their main institution and outside their main institution, respectively. External additional affiliations are overall more commonly reported than additional internal affiliations. Still, additional internal affiliations are common in chemistry and also for respondents in Japan. External additional affiliations are most commonly found in economics & business studies and in history.

When distinguishing between additional external affiliations in the country of workplace and abroad, we find that respondents in the UK and Germany are more internationally oriented than those in Japan, while discipline differences are less pronounced (Figure C4).

The survey asked respondents about the importance of a list of motivations for additional affiliations. Figure C5 shows the share of respondents for whom these motivations are of at least ‘some importance’. Networking and knowledge exchange were most often mentioned as motivations. In Germany, respondents’ job opportunities are frequently mentioned, in the UK prestige benefits, access to data and materials and research funding, and in Japan teaching experience. When differentiating by discipline (Figure C6), we see that access to lab space and equipment as well as access to students and their job prospects is of importance to respondents in chemistry, biology and engineering, but of little importance in history or economics & business studies. Personal income motivations are of greater importance to respondents in economics & business.

The work arrangement in the external affiliation was most often described as research-related in all three countries (Figure C7). In Japan, teaching-related additional affiliations are more frequent than in Germany and the UK. Advisory roles, on the other hand, are more often mentioned by respondents from Germany (14.8%) and the UK (23.6%). Honorary affiliations were stated by 4.1% in Germany and 9.4% in the UK compared to only 1.0% in Japan.

Figure C8 shows that multiple affiliations at external institutions are most frequently initiated through personal contacts with researchers in the second institution. In Japan and Germany, academics are also frequently approached by other institutions (30% in Japan, 22.4% in Germany versus 16.7% in the UK). Prior employment is further one of the most often indicated reasons for multiple affiliations. In the UK and Germany it is also often the respondents’ own initiative (application / request) that builds additional affiliations. These results suggest that multiple affiliations develop primarily out of existing collaborations with researchers at other institutions.




Part D: Sharing of research resources

Not only institutional affiliations but also collaboration between scientists at different institutions is important for scientific advancement. The survey therefore enquired about researchers’ openness towards the sharing of research resources as well as ‘Open Science’. Figure D1 reports the share of respondents that received requests for research resources and those that requested resources from researchers at other institutions. The results show that more than 70% of respondents have received a request in the past three years and more than 60% have made a request themselves. Respondents in the UK have both received and made fewer requests than respondents in Germany or Japan. Figure D2 reports the number of requests by discipline. Respondents report to have received more requests than they have made themselves. Requests for resources are more often received and made in history, biology and chemistry, compared to economics & business and engineering.

The survey then asked respondents about the last time they engaged in the sharing of research resources and asked about the type of resources that were included in this most recent request. Figure D3 shows that literature and data were most often requested in history, economics and engineering, while in biology and chemistry, tangible materials, such as cell lines, and protocols were requested most often. Equipment is being shared most often in engineering and chemistry.

The goal of resource sharing was most frequently described as initiating collaborative research or advancing the recipient’s research (Figure D4). Less often was curiosity or gathering for a larger database the goal. The country comparison moreover shows that collaboration is more important than research advancement in Japan and Germany, but less so in the UK. In terms of institutions, we see that in all three countries the majority of exchanges happen with researchers at other universities (Figures D5 and D6). A large proportion of respondents in Japan and Germany also received requests from non-university research institutes and from industry. Compared to Japan, a higher share of respondents in Germany and in the UK report resource exchanges with institutions abroad (Figure D5 and D6, blue bars).

Describing the agreed conditions for resource sharing, collaboration was mentioned most often in all three countries (Figure D7). Co-authorship follows as the second most frequent agreement between sharing parties. Especially amongst respondents in Japan, collaboration and co-authorship appears to be a common modality for sharing of resources. In the UK, a majority of respondents stated that nothing was agreed. Finally, provider’s approval or review of research results and legal agreements are less common than other types of agreements in all three countries.

Figures D8 and D9 show the discipline combinations between recipients and providers. Typically, providers and recipients are from the same or closely related research fields. Exchange with closely related rather than the same field is more common in chemistry and biology where subject boundaries may be more fluid. Respondents in chemistry also most often report exchanges with researchers from a different discipline compared to respondents from other subject areas.

Regarding the outcome of the sharing process, we asked whether sharing resulted in progress of research. Figure D10 shows that progress in the recipient’s field was most often reported in all scientific disciplines with the exception of chemistry, where interdisciplinary progress was more often stated. A significant share of respondents, however, reported no scientific progress, either because sharing did not take place, because progress was not the aim or because of a lack of time to make use of the shared resources.

Finally, we asked respondents about their use of online platforms to share research resources (Figure D11). About one third of respondents in each country have never heard of online repositories and an additional quarter have no intention of using them. Use of these platforms is most commonly reported amongst respondents from biology and chemistry. In Germany, historians more commonly report to use such platforms and in the UK respondents in economics & business do.


Boselli, B. and F. Galindo-Rueda (2016), Drivers and Implications of Scientific Open Access Publishing: Findings from a Pilot OECD International Survey of Scientific Authors. OECD Science, Technology and Industry Policy Papers, No. 33, OECD Publishing, Paris.

Hottenrott, H. and Lawson, C. (2016) A first look at multiple institutional affiliations: a study of authors in Germany, Japan and the UK. mimeo.

Wren JD, Grissom JE, Conway T (2006) E-mail decay rates among corresponding authors in MEDLINE. EMBO Rep 7: 122–127.