An examination of millions of research articles and patents was revealed on Wednesday, and it found that the pace at which revolutionary scientific breakthroughs and technological innovation are occurring is slowing down despite the ever-increasing quantity of information. While other studies have revealed declines in certain scientific and technological domains, this is the first to establish this slowing of disruption across the board. Disruptive discoveries are those that challenge the status quo and pave the way for new directions in science.
45 million scientific publications published between 1945 and 2010 and 3.9 million patents issued in the United States between 1976 and 2010 were evaluated for their disruptive potential. According to findings published in Nature, this trend toward consolidating or building upon prior knowledge may be traced back to the beginning of those time intervals.
The classification was based on the number of times each manuscript had been mentioned in other research five years after it had been published, with the assumption being that more revolutionary research would result in less citations to earlier work in the same field. Science fields like physics and chemistry had the largest decline in innovative research.
As small, incremental improvements become the norm, research is changing. A possible explanation for this reduction is that we’ve already discovered all the easily accessible scientific breakthroughs. But if that were the case, the rate of decline in disruptiveness across scientific disciplines would have been different. However, the losses have been occurring at around the same rates and at about the same times across all the main areas, suggesting that the low-hanging fruit argument is unlikely to be to blame.
Instead, they cited a concept known as “the burden of research,” which implies that scientists nowadays have so much to study in order to become experts in a certain topic that they have little time left to explore its borders.
Because of this, researchers and innovators are only able to make incremental improvements rather than producing ground-breaking discoveries. It’s also possible that the pressure to publish is growing because of how professors are evaluated. It was recommended by the study’s authors that institutions and funding organizations prioritize quality over quantity, and that they provide full support for year-long sabbaticals to provide professors time to read widely and reflect.
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