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Scientists Hit Their Creative Peak Early in Their Careers

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student and an older teacher examine papers

Older, more experienced scientists have stood the test of time, but on average are not at their best, researchers say.

Credit: Getty Images

A new study provides the evidence that scientists overall are most innovative and creative early in their careers.

An examination of 5.6 million biomedical science articles published over a 30-year period shows that the impact of the scientists' published work, where innovativeness is measured by the number of times other scientists "cite" the work, drops by between one-half to two-thirds over the course of their careers.

"We found that as they get older, the work of biomedical scientists was just not as innovative and impactful," says Bruce Weinberg, professor of economics at Ohio State University and co-author of the study published in the Journal of Human Resources.

"Our results have implications for broader questions of human capital accumulation over the career and federal research policies that shift funding to early-career researchers," the study says. The findings are nuanced and the study says that policies of funding young researchers "must be undertaken carefully because young researchers are less 'able' on average."

From Ohio State University
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