Randomness of scientific impact

Nov 9, 2016

A group of researchers wondered if there was a trend or predictability for when a scientist’s most impactful work came about. It’s random.

[W]e studied the evolution of productivity and impact throughout thousands of scientific careers. We reconstructed the publication record of scientists from seven disciplines, connecting each paper with its long-term impact on the scientific community as quantified by citation metrics. We found that the highest-impact work in a scientist’s career is randomly distributed within her body of work. That is, the highest-impact work has the same probability of falling anywhere in the sequence of papers published by a scientist. It could be the first publication, appear mid-career, or emerge last. This result is known as the random impact rule.

An interactive visualization by Kim Albrecht lets you explore this randomness. Since the main point of the research is really that there is no clear pattern, that’s what you get.

The explainer video by Mauro Martino for Nature is also interesting:

Favorites

Interactive: When Do Americans Leave For Work?

We don’t all start our work days at the same time, despite what morning rush hour might have you think.

Where People Run in Major Cities

There are many exercise apps that allow you to keep …

Unemployment in America, Mapped Over Time

Watch the regional changes across the country from 1990 to 2016.

Divorce Rates for Different Groups

We know when people usually get married. We know who never marries. Finally, it’s time to look at the other side: divorce and remarriage.