Is the awards system for scientists way off? Northwestern University management professor Benjamin Jones argues it is. According to an article by Scott Jaschik in Inside Higher Ed:
The paper argues that science has changed in key ways. Specifically, it argues that the age at which researchers are able to make breakthroughs has advanced, and that scientists are parts of increasingly larger teams, encouraging narrow specialization. Yet, he argues, science policy (or a lot of it) continues to assume the possibility if not desirability of breakthroughs by a lone young investigator.
Apparently in the last century the average age of major scientific achievements rose by 4.86 years. At the same time collaboration also increased. The size of scientific teams increased by 15-20 percent a decade.
It’s a little unclear what policies would really help address the aging of science effectively but, as Jones argues, scientists need to work to “ensure effective evaluation of ideas” even when those ideas come from multiple scientists. Scientists also need to be recognized and rewarded (provided with “appropriate effort incentives”) for their work, even when that work occurs with other researchers.
Read the abstract of the Jones paper here.