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Researchers say global scientific output doubling every nine years

Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Thursday, May 8, 2014, 6:40 PM - Researchers say global scientific output is doubling every nine years. Is this more science than humanity can handle?

For years, some researchers have been suggesting that there are too many scientific papers out there.

Improving technology has led to studies being published at lightning speed, making it difficult for some to stay up-to-date in their chosen fields. 

Now, (yet another) new paper by Lutz Bornmann of the Max Planck Society in Munich, Germany and Ruediger Mutz of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology may have confirmed that there may, in fact, be more science out there than we can handle.

Upon analyzing 755 million scientific references in nearly 40 million publications between 1980 and 2012, the researchers concluded that the world's scientific output is doubling roughly every nine years.

The recent announcement has sparked debate in the scientific community.

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Some have argued that the figures don't accurately represent the true amount of "new science" that's actually being produced.

Bibliometrics researcher Anthony van Raan told Nature that competition and the pressure of career advancement could be encouraging some scientists to take a "quantity over quality" approach to publishing new studies.

"The behaviour of scientists to publish more, to split up papers, to publish first a short paper followed by a more detailed one, and so on, would imply an ‘extra’ growth which is not necessarily ‘real’ growth of science,” he told Nature.

“It would be fascinating to develop a framework in which ‘sustainable’ contributions to scientific development can be identified and used as a kind of measure to see how our total scientific knowledge is growing.”

The complete Mutz and Bornmann analysis will be published later this year in the Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology.

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