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Researchers Plead for More Improbable Research

Researchers point out that as a field of research becomes big, much of the attention sinks into a middling pool of ideas. Unlikely ideas tend to get squeezed out. They explain, in this study:

Slowed Canonical Progress in Large Fields of Science,” Johan S.G. Chu and James A. Evans, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, vol. 118, no. 41, October 12, 2021, e2021636118.  The authors, at Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, and the Santa Fe Institute, explain:

“In many academic fields, the number of papers published each year has increased significantly over time…. Here, we first lay out a theoretical argument for why too many papers published each year in a field can lead to stagnation rather than advance…. Then, we show data supporting the predictions of this theory. When the number of papers published per year in a scientific field grows large,… newly published papers become unlikely to disrupt existing work. These findings suggest that the progress of large scientific fields may be slowed, trapped in existing canon. Policy measures shifting how scientific work is produced, disseminated, consumed, and rewarded may be called for to push fields into new, more fertile areas of study.”

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