Half of all scientific studies have been published in the last 12 years

Half of all scientific studies have been published in the last 12 years

Albert Einstein published 248 studies in his lifetime. Charles Darwin, 119. Louis Pasteur. 172. Michael Faraday, 161. Sigmund Freud, 330. Let’s compare these numbers with the body of work of Peter Higgs , who had published only 25 studies at the age of 84, when he received the Nobel Prize for predicting the Higgs boson. Or consider Gregor Mendel , who secured an enduring legacy with only seven scientific publications to his name.

Before dying in 1996 at the age of eighty-three, Erdős had written or co-authored a staggering 1,475 scholarly articles in collaboration with 511 colleagues. In other words: scientists produce knowledge very unevenly (at least when it comes to published articles). Therefore, despite the fact that perhaps less is published individually, there are more scientists than ever, which translates into greater scientific production .

Science of science

Scientometrics is the science that studies scientific production in order to measure and analyze it. The main research topics include impact measurement, reference sets of articles to investigate the impact of journals and institutes, understanding scientific citations, mapping scientific fields, and producing indicators for use in political and political contexts. management.

Modern Scientometrics draws heavily on the work of Derek J. de Solla Price who, in 1961, determined that the number of scientists more or less doubles every 15 years. However, the data shows that since 1961, this rate has slowed slightly, doubling every 18 years .

If we take a look at the rate of publication of scientific articles, based on the data provided by Lutz Bornmann and Rüdiger Mutz in a study , the exponential growth of science is also confirmed: since the second half of the 20th century, the number of Articles published each year has doubled every 9 years.

As we read in Dashun Wang’s book The Science of Science , half of all scientific studies have been published in the last twelve years. On COVID-19, in fact, we have already passed a million studies. This does not happen, basically, because 90% of all the scientists that have existed in history are alive right now .

An analysis of more than 53 million authors and about 90 million articles published in all branches of science shows that both the number of articles and that of scientists grew exponentially during the last century. However, while the former grew slightly faster than the latter, meaning that the number of publications per capita has been declining over time, for each scientist, individual productivity has remained fairly stable over the past century .

For example, the number of articles that a scientist produces each year has been around two during the entire 20th century, and has even increased slightly during the last 15 years. As of 2015, typical scientific authors or co-authors about 2.5 articles per year. This growth in individual productivity stems from collaborations – individual productivity is boosted as scientists wind up on many more papers as co-authors.

In other words, while in terms of how many scientists it takes to produce an article, that number has been on a downward trend over the past century, thanks to collaborative work, individual productivity has increased over the past decade.

Corollary: as we are many people than before, there are also more brains than before, which translates into more ideas. Greater innovation. The problem, and that gives for another analysis, is how we are going to do it to analyze all this new knowledge and discard the wheat of the chaff . You can expand on all this in a book in which I delve into the subject, History of uncertainty, and of which you can have a more general vision in the following podcast: