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7/7/2020  
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R&D
More innovative topics

Young researchers are much more creative than older scientists, study finds


Analysis of millions of papers finds that junior biomedical researchers tend to work on more innovative topics than their senior colleagues do. Young researchers are much more likely than older scientists to study exciting innovative topics, according to a text analysis of more than 20 million biomedical papers published over the past 70 years. More-senior researchers are more likely to publish in hot areas when they are supervising a younger scientist.
Ibercampus 26/2/2015 Send to a friend
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Researchers are at their most creative when they are young, or so says conventional wisdom: Charles Darwin and Max Planck both argued that young scientists were more open than older colleagues to new ideas. But the topic is not just fodder for chats over post-seminar beers.

To determine which scientists used the most innovative ideas, Packalen and Bhattacharya turned to the leading index of biomedical research, MEDLINE (accessed through the website PubMed), which stores more than 21 million articles published since 1946.

The duo developed a computer program that identifies every one-, two- or three-word string in the title and abstract of each paper. It then logs when each string first appeared in the literature and counts how many times it has appeared subsequently, to determine its popularity.

The method could not measure researchers’ creativity, only their willingness to embrace new ideas, which might have been proposed by others. But it showed that except for the newest scientists, young researchers far outpaced older scientists in citing new ideas in their papers, Packalen and Bhattacharya found. Because the two had no way of measuring the actual age of a researcher, they calculated ‘career ages’ — the number of years after a scientist’s first publication.

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