30 October 2008

Older scientists are more productive than younger ones

Older scientists publish more articles than their younger colleagues. This conclusion was reached by Canadian researchers after analyzing the publications of 13.8 thousand professors from Quebec. A pre-print of the work is available on the website arxiv.org . The main conclusions of the study are presented by the Nature News portal.

Traditionally, it is believed that young scientists are more productive and have more creative potential compared to older researchers. However, data from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), one of the leading research organizations, have called this statement into question. In 1970, the average age of a researcher who received a NIH grant for the first time was 34.3 years, and in 2004 - 41.7 years.

This information served as an incentive for the research of Canadian scientists. They analyzed the publications of Quebec professors and made graphs of the dependence of their quantity and "quality" on the age of the authors. "Quality" in this case means the impact factor of the journal (a numerical indicator of its significance, depending on the number of references to the works published in it), where the article is published, and the number of references to it in other journals.

It turned out that the number of publications increases rapidly in the period between the end of the second and the beginning of the third decade, and more slowly - in the period when researchers are 40 to 50 years old. Actively working professors after the age of 60 publish an average of three articles a year. This indicator for scientists at the age of 30 years is a little short of two.

The average impact factor of journals where articles are published decreases in parallel with the increase in the "productivity" of a scientist, but increases among older professors. At the same time, the number of references to articles by one or another author remains constant throughout his career.

The authors of the study admit that the results could be influenced, for example, by time factors: professors who started their careers in the 1970s were in different conditions compared to those who started their scientific activities in the 2000s. Nevertheless, they are confident that their work has proved that age is not the only factor affecting scientific "productivity".


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