A Guide to Short Term Overseas Research

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Collaborations, exchange programs, short term contracts; for the modern researcher, international opportunities come in a variety of shapes and sizes. A stint abroad can benefit your own career and increase the profile of your home university. This article looks at some of the options for overseas placements.

Funding and Research Organisations

There are several research exchange programs operated by well-established organisations. The British Council is involved in a number of schemes to encourage international collaborations, as well as funding for overseas research. It also operates  'SISTER', an international support organisation for science, engineering and technology researchers.

The Royal Society has an International Exchange Scheme which encourages short-term scientific research visits to other countries. This is a combination of the International Travel Grants and International Joint Projects schemes which have now been discontinued.

The Fulbright Commission will be of particular interest to those who wish to go to an English-speaking country. They offer short-term study exchange programs between the UK and the US. Funding from the The Fulbright Commission is available to UK citizens.

Another source of information and funding opportunities is the RCUK. The RCUK website lists funding options for each research council and it encourages international collaboration.

Funding and support for international research is also offered by most universities. A short research period abroad could be of benefit to your university's profile. Find out about funding available from your university by making inquiries at your department, or at the relevant central academic office, such as the PG Office.

Networking and other options

Conferences often bring together academics and researchers from all over the world. Don't miss the opportunity to expand your network. Making use of your network will be vital when you are looking for short term international placements. Ask your contacts to keep you informed of research opportunities and exchange programs at their universities. Networking is explored further in the How to Create an Academic Network article on jobs.ac.uk.

The benefits to you

Moving to another country can broaden your intellectual horizons and provide unique research opportunities. It can also be beneficial in terms of your skills set. Short-term overseas work can give you a boost of confidence as you learn to be independent and it increases your understanding of other cultures. It also shows future employers that you are an industrious, pro-active person. 

One researcher who is currently on an overseas placement had this to say: ““A knowledge of other cultures and the ability to speak confidently are crucial to my personal, professional and academic life, so this overseas placement has influenced me greatly. It has helped me to acquire skill sets that influence my career path and it really enhances my academic study. “

Clearly, short term overseas research is a good method of improving your career and your research profile. It will you give you the chance to make connections and an international network that will be of benefit throughout your career.

Long-term placements

This article has looked at short-term contracts and exchange programs, and the funding for this type of research. For long-term posts and permanent relocation, have a look at our other articles, such as International Teaching.


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