Research has progressed through three ages: the individual, the institutional and the national. Nations competed to be at the cutting edge because this contributed to the wider economy through knowledge, new processes and products.
Today, we are entering a fourth age of research, driven by international collaborations between elite research groups. This will challenge the ability of nations to conserve their scientific wealth either as intellectual property or as research talent. Tensions are growing: between the knowledge a country needs to remain competitive and the assets it can exclusively secure, and between the collaborative and domestic parts of the research base. Institutions that do not form international collaborations risk progressive disenfranchisement, and countries that do not nurture their talent will lose out entirely.
Collaborations: The fourth age of research
Nature 497, 557–560 (30 May 2013) http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/497557a