Meanwhile, sustained economic growth in the Global South is causing a geographic shift in the international research landscape. This scenario explores a world where the West has lost its dominance and China leads the way in healthcare research.
Harder economic times and populism in the West have curtailed international movement, and political agendas now focus narrowly on issues of national security and economic health.
In the West, contraction of higher education institutes and “brain drain” have reduced overall research capacity and output. Nations aim to fund “less, more useful” research, with a focus on demonstrating short term, tangible economic impact or benefit. Curiosity-driven research is scarce. Lower impact or negative research may be hidden if it is detrimental to impact assessment and funding allocation.
Researchers are employed by public research and healthcare facilities. Public payers focus on fast, low-cost, “real world” research on costs and benefits of healthcare interventions. Niche areas of biotech which boost industry, to which academic research has increasingly close ties, still attract national funding. Incremental advances in the UK in areas such as genetic and regenerative medicine reflect the high market value of the associated IP.
Sustained economic growth has led to the dominance of many Asian, African and South American countries, led by China which is the new global research and education powerhouse. These “emerged countries” attract the best researchers, particularly in fields with long term research objectives, which are off the agenda in many Western countries, and in traditional holistic care which is widely practised alongside Western medicine. Many experienced researchers have returned from the West to their countries of origin, using their international connections to poach the best researchers. International collaboration has, however, declined, the global open science movement has stalled and advances in precision medicine have slowed without the availability of large international data sets.
Only selected research is shared internationally. Research misinformation may be fed to competitor nations in high value fields and some cash-strapped domestic research may also be untrustworthy.
Nationally-open, local language repositories and platforms for research and data prevail. China has led the way with megasystems that allow researchers to complete most tasks at the touch of a button. Integrated, AI-powered research impact metrics assess the national economic, social, and scientific impact of all datasets, research papers, software, materials and other research outputs in real time.