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. Contrast these numbers with the body of work of Peter Higgs, who had published just 25 studies at the age of 84, when he received the Nobel Prize for predicting the Higgs boson. Or we think of Gregor Mendel, who secures a lasting legacy with only seven scientific publications to his name.

Before he died 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 in terms of published articles). Therefore, despite the fact that less is probably published, there are more scientists than ever, which translates into greater scientific production.

Scientometrics is the science that studies scientific production to measure and analyze it. Major 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 policy and political contexts. management

Modern scientometrics is largely based on the work of Derek J. de Solla Price who, in 1961, determined that the number of scientists doubles approximately every 15 years. However, data shows that since 1961, this rate has slowed slightly, doubling every 18 years.

If we take a look at the publication rate 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 been doubling every 9 years.

As we read in the book The Science of Science, by Dashun Wang, half of all scientific studies have been published in the last twelve years. Regarding COVID-19, in fact, we have already exceeded one million studies. This is not happening, basically, because 90% of all scientists who have ever existed in history are alive right now.

An analysis of more than 53 million authors and close to 90 million articles published in all branches of science shows that both the number of articles and the number 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 papers a scientist produces each year has hovered around two for the entire 20th century, and has even reached slightly over the last 15 years. As of 2015, typical scientific authors or co-authors around 2.5 articles per year. This growth in individual productivity stems from collaborations: individual productivity is boosted as scientists end up on many more papers as co-authors.

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