The Younger, the More Innovative?

Working at the Zukunftskolleg can lead to more innovative topics – at least according to a study entitled “Age and the trying out of new ideas”. Economist Mikko Packalen from the University of Waterloo in Canada and economist Jay Bhattacharya from Stanford University in California conducted an analysis of more than 20 million biomedical papers published over the past 70 years. They found that young researchers are much more likely than older scientists to study exciting innovative topics. More-senior researchers are more likely to publish in hot areas when they are supervising a younger scientist.

Packalen and Bhattacharya also analyzed the career stages of papers’ first authors (who tend to do the bulk of the research) and last authors (who tend to be supervisors), and found that the most innovative combination was an early-career first author and a mid-career last author. “One reading of the results is that we quantified something that a lot of people thought was true: that young guys are innovative but they also need some mentorship,” stated Packalen.

The working paper was published by the US National Bureau of Economic Research.