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Age and the Trying Out of New Ideas

Mikko Packalen and Jay Bhattacharya

Journal of Human Capital, 2019, vol. 13, issue 2, 341 - 373

Abstract: The aging of the scientific workforce and graying of grant recipients are central concerns in science policy. These trends are potentially important because older scientists are often seen as less open to new ideas than younger scientists. Here we put this hypothesis to an empirical test. A text analysis of 20 million biomedical research articles shows that papers published by younger researchers are more likely to build on new ideas. Collaboration with an experienced researcher also matters. Papers with a young first author and a more experienced last author are more likely to try out newer ideas than papers published by other team configurations. Our results buttress the case for funding young researchers but also provide a caution against unconditional idolatry of youth over experience.

Date: 2019
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