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Study: “Half-life” of scientists dramatically shorter over time

What’s hot? What’s not?/Niklas Bildhauer, Wikimedia

Scientists are becoming a temporary workforce (“permadocs”):

Following scientists in three fields, the paper’s authors found that it took about five years for a half of a science cohort to leave academic work in 2010 — compared to 35 years in the 1960s. The researchers also found a “rapid rise” in scientists who spend their careers supporting others and never leading a paper of their own — from about 25 percent of scientists in the 1960s to 60 percent today.

A more advanced analysis suggests that for lead authors, number of publications has “consistently been a significant predictor of career longevity. We also see that citations reduced the hazard of exit in the early cohorts.” However, the paper says, more recently, the model is “dominated by publications, with citations having little independent effect.” And in contrast, for supporting authors, publications have “very weak effects until the most recent cohort.”Colleen Flaherty, “Rise of the Science Ph.D. Dropout” at Inside Higher Ed

The need to get a citation—any old how—may help account for peer review scandals and the need to treat fossil concepts like Darwinism as if they were still alive (why risk any kind of dissent when attrition is so high?).

See also: Kim Kardashian’s Paper One Of Top Ten Science Retractions Of 2018


Chinese Researchers Who Stray Could Face “Social Penalties”

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I suspect that part of the difference between 1960 and now is the vastly higher number of "scientists" being generated by universities today. If more people graduate from science, from schools with lower standards in the 21st century than in mid 20th, it is no surprise that a larger percentage of them cannot do proper science for whatever reason) and so "drop out" at some point. But perhaps I am just biased? Fasteddious
I concur with Forrest Mims. When submitting papers to journals I am asked for my affiliation (which is not an academic or research one), but never my education. I don't even include the letters behind my name when submitting a manuscript (B.Sc. and M.Sc.). I suspect that the increased "drop-out" rate has more to do with larger numbers of people taking post-graduate degrees than it does with a shorter "half-life" of scientists. Most work published by university professors is performed by their graduate students. Since most graduate students do not pursue careers in academic institutions, the source of a large percentage of scientific publications, it is no surprise that they would "drop-out" after completion of their degrees. Ed George
Three comments: 1. Many journals are trying to enforce a policy that requires authors to have made a significant contribution to the work. Otherwise, they should be listed in the acknowledgments. 2. With only a BA in government (minors in history, English and military science), I had absolutely no academic preparation to do professional science. Yet I've managed to do science for NASA, NOAA, EPA, Colorado State and various non-profits, none of whom asked about my degree or even if I attended university. Instead, my papers in various journals is what attracted their attention. 3. Don't worry about the quitters. The best science is done by people who love what they do. Atmospheric events that followed the recent volcanic eruption of Anak Krakatau occurred during the partial shutdown of the US government, when some online resources became unavailable. Yet some government scientists managed to find ways to study this eruption despite the shutdown. Good for them! Forrest Mims

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