Study Shows Recent Stark Decrease in "Disruptive" Science

    Photo: forbes

    The Facts

    • According to a Nature study released this week, despite the ever-increasing number of science and technology papers published each year, the “disruptiveness” of the research is declining.

    • Russell Funk, a sociologist at the University of Minnesota, co-authored the study. The study considers “disruptive” science to be work that takes its field in a new direction instead of simply incrementally building on previous research.

    The Spin

    Establishment-critical narrative

    The scientific publishing business has become the enemy of progress. With the focus on producing studies that will bring the biggest hype, however transitory, and thus reap the biggest profits — coupled with the fact that academic careers depend almost entirely on the number of papers a researcher has authored, and the prestige of the journals in which they're published — there is little incentive to think outside the box or pursue disruptive science.

    Pro-establishment narrative

    Everyone wants to see exciting breakthroughs in science, and sometimes people overreact to a lack of innovation when a new study is released. However, incremental science is not a bad thing at all; in fact, it has led to extremely valuable work and lays a foundation for future research to continue exploring. Science is a team sport, and advancing the objectives benefit the team in the long run.

    Cynical narrative

    Science is in decline, and the effects are chilling and palpable. Unfortunately, science is no longer defined by the pursuit of knowledge and innovation; it has been captured by political ideologues who would rather suppress research into “forbidden” topics rather than embrace daring adventures. As long as “science” is more concerned with racial quotas than it is with actual discovery, we will continue to see its sad decline.

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