Daniel Lemire's blog

, 5 min read

Have Americans reached peak scholarship?

5 thoughts on “Have Americans reached peak scholarship?”

  1. Don’t forget that it’s been a recession and a slash in government funding for many years in a row. It didn’t recover yet and seems to be getting only worse (i.e., less money if you adjust for inflation).

  2. David Allyn says:

    It would be interesting to see this data as avg paper/author for each country. That is, are the same amount of authors writing less papers (suggesting, perhaps, a decrease in funding)? Or, are there less authors writing the same amount of papers (suggesting a decrease or movement of authors)?

  3. Anonymous says:

    This is quite an interesting analysis that confirms the predictions of Derek de Solla Price made in 1963 in “Little Science, Big Science”.

    de Solla Price showed in this book that there was a roughly constant doubling time for different forms of scientific output (number of journals, number of papers, number of scientists, etc.) of about 10-15 years over history. Price also pointed out that the doubling time of the number of scientists is much shorter than the doubling time of the overall human population (~50 years).

    Price makes the startling but obvious outcomes of this observation very clear: either everyone on earth will be a scientist one day, or the growth rate of science must decrease from its previous long term trends. He then goes on to argue that the most likely outcome is the latter, and that scientific growth rates will change from exponential to logistic growth and reach saturation sometime within 100 years from the publication of his book in 1963.

    This book is sadly out of print, but I do recommend anyone interested in long terms growth treands in science to read it. It certainly left a big impression on my thinking, which I wrote about a few years ago here: http://caseybergman.wordpress.com/2012/08/26/the-logistics-of-scientific-growth-in-the-21st-century/

  4. Anonymous says:

    I’m not sure number of papers is necessarily a good metric.

    If ‘number of papers’ is the success metric in some country, then papers is what you will get, whether that’s LPU’s or low acceptance standards, or outright fraud.

    Citation or impact factor weighted metrics or patent citations might be more helpful (though still subject to gamification).

    I don’t see peak science anytime soon though, either at the country or global level. Even in developed countries, there are still non-trivial gains to be obtained by broadening talent pool to include more women, for example.

  5. @Anonymous

    The way science is assessed does not differ dramatically between the United States and Canada, say. There is not more pressure in Canada to produce papers than in the United States. So I think that the comparison is fair.

    The fact that production is increasing faster in Canada than in the United States is meaningful.

    Even in developed countries, there are still non-trivial gains to be obtained by broadening talent pool to include more women, for example.

    No doubt, but are Americans broadening the talent pool?