A fundamental shift is taking place in the geography of science. Networks of research collaboration are expanding in every region of the globe. The established science superpowers of the United States and Europe have dominated the research world since 1945. Yet this Atlantic axis is unlikely to be the main focus of research by 2045, or perhaps even by 2020.

New regional networks are reinforcing the competence and capacity of emerging research economies, and changing the global balance of research activity. This may well reveal different ways of approaching challenges, and solutions that are different to those of Western institutions. If the science superpowers are to avoid being left behind, they will need to step out of their comfort zones to keep up with the dynamism of the new players in this shifting landscape.

Collaboration is normally a good thing from a wider public perspective. Knowledge is better transferred and combined by collaboration, and co-authored papers tend to be cited more frequently1. But could increased global collaboration mean a blending of objectives that risks leaving bland priorities?