Researcher incentives: EU cash goes to the sticky and attractive

Journal name:
Date published:
Published online

Winning European research money does not depend only on a well-funded research base (G. Parisi Nature 530, 33; 2016). We find that it is also contingent on national governments' ability to retain their own scientists ('stickiness') and to attract others from abroad ('attractiveness').

We analysed statistical indicators of EU scientists' mobility for 2007–14 ( and to determine the stickiness and attractiveness of different countries. We quantified attractiveness and stickiness as the relative difference between the numbers of incoming or remaining researchers, respectively, and of outgoing ones.

For both measures, we found that the higher the value, the better were that country's chances of securing European research funding. The United Kingdom and Sweden are examples of high scorers in both; Italy is among the lowest (see

We conclude that there is a 'rich-get-richer' effect for countries that have high attractiveness and stickiness scores. Those nations also boast a high gross domestic product per capita and tend to invest more in research and development. This means that they can lure and retain the best researchers by providing competitive salaries and a guaranteed future in research.

Author information


  1. Rovira I Virgili University, Tarragona, Spain.

    • Manlio De Domenico &
    • Alex Arenas

Corresponding author

Correspondence to:

Author details

Additional data