There Are Too Many Studies, New Study Finds

Researchers say there is an “attention decay” in science.

Photo by Flickr user U.S. Army RDECOM.

If you ever feel overwhelmed by the constant production of new research studies, imagine how scientists feel—they have to read the actual studies, and not just rudimentary summaries by journalists who have only a 10th grade understanding of science, like myself. A new study published by researchers in California and Finland finds that the volume of scientific literature produced is so massive that it has had a deteriorating effect on the attention spans of scholars and scientists. The researchers measured citation rates of published papers and discovered that scientists “forget” recent papers more easily than ones published in the past.

“We found that this has to do with the exponential growth in the number of publications, which inevitably accelerates the turnover of papers, due to the finite capacity of scholars to keep track of the scientific literature,” they write in their conclusion.

The growing number of publications also has a devaluing effect on the results of published studies. The more studies there are, the more likely a paper will become “obsolete”.