Study: Innovation in Science Is on The Decline

Study: Innovation in Science Is on The Decline. By Daniel Lawler.

The rate of ground-breaking scientific discoveries and technological innovation is slowing down despite an ever-growing amount of knowledge, according to an analysis released Wednesday of millions of research papers and patents.

While previous research has shown downturns in individual disciplines, the study is the first that “emphatically, convincingly documents this decline of disruptiveness across all major fields of science and technology,” lead author Michael Park told AFP.

Park, a doctoral student at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, called disruptive discoveries those that “break away from existing ideas” and “push the whole scientific field into new territory.”

The researchers gave a “disruptiveness score” to 45 million scientific papers dating from 1945 to 2010, and to 3.9 million US-based patents from 1976 to 2010. …

The biggest decrease in disruptive research came in physical sciences such as physics and chemistry….

No more low hanging fruit? No, it’s always seemed like that.

One theory for the decline is that all the “low-hanging fruit” of science has already been plucked.

If that were the case, disruptiveness in various scientific fields would have fallen at different speeds, Park said.

But instead “the declines are pretty consistent in their speeds and timing across all major fields,” Park said, indicating that the low-hanging fruit theory is not likely to be the culprit.

More complexity? Maybe:

Instead, the researchers pointed to what has been dubbed “the burden of research,” which suggests there is now so much that scientists must learn to master a particular field they have little time left to push boundaries.

From the comments:

Who has time for innovation when we’re celebrating diversity and inclusion? …

Innovation is white privilege. …

Too many are turning away from logic, reason, and the scientific method. They’re turning to the darkness of postmodernism. …

Echo chambers don’t make discoveries. …

I have worked in industry research and on some grant funded programs. I have worked with many departments, companies, and individuals who did grant funded work. It corrupts everything. It is all about getting another grant and not at all about producing anything of value except justification for another grant. It corrupts people, the science, the data they generate, and even the companies that turn to GFR [grant funded research] when short of funding. I have hired many researchers who came up doing GFR, and one challenge is teaching them not to alter results and p-hack. Think about that.

A major obvious reason is that science funding is bureaucratized, and bureaucrats aren’t exactly innovative. Evolution ensures the “scientists” who thrive in the modern science-funding environment are those who are best at convincing bureaucrats to give them money. The glib talkers who are most like the bureaucrats succeed, while those more focused and fascinated by their subject area are neglected.

But the overwhelmingly major reason is taboo. Measured average IQ among whites has been dropping, since peaking in 1880. Indirect indicators show that it rose steadily from 1100 for 800 years, eventually resulting in the intellectual breakthroughs of the scientific and industrial revolutions. But now average IQ is declining, fast, down 15 points since 1880.

Unless this is reversed, the future of humanity is probably dopey and a return to the Malthusian limit in the not too distant future. What a wasted opportunity that will have been.