Nature articles highlight new study examining researcher’s age, creativity, and innovation! #science

This week’s edition of Nature has two articles, an editorial and a news piece, about the researcher age, creativity, and innovation! Both pieces are based on a new study by Mikko Packalen and Jay Bhattacharya published by the US National Bureau of Economic Research, “AGE AND THE TRYING OUT OF NEW IDEAS.”

…analysis of some 20 million biomedical papers published over the past 70 years suggests that younger researchers are more likely than older researchers to be working on innovative topics. Out with the old? Not so fast: if you are good enough then you are old enough, certainly. But the latest analysis also suggests that the most productive groups teamed a young researcher with an old(er) hand. There is an age-old problem here, but it is not necessarily old age.

While the study, and the methods it utilizes, are certainly interesting and seem to confirm an ageist dogma, they are perhaps not completely representative of reality. The analysis is based on some assumptions of scientists’ age, as well as how ‘innovation’ and ‘creativity’ are defined and calculated.

The method could not measure researchers’ creativity, only their willingness to embrace new ideas, which might have been proposed by others. But it showed that except for the newest scientists, young researchers far outpaced older scientists in citing new ideas in their papers, Packalen and Bhattacharya found (see ‘Cooling down’). Because the two had no way of measuring the actual age of a researcher, they calculated ‘career ages’ — the number of years after a scientist’s first publication.

Nonetheless, the study brings forward the interesting and timely discussion of aging scientists, as a number of countries are considering changing the way they deal with older researchers (pointed out in the editorial).

CDC announces record-high life expectancy of 78.8 years for USA in Data Brief

The CDC has issued a data brief on mortality in USA, with the most recent data from 2012. The report has tons of information, including the main finding that the average life expectancy in the US is now a record high of 78.8 years!

This report presents 2012 U.S. final mortality data on deaths and death rates by demographic and medical characteristics. These data provide information on mortality patterns among residents of the United States by such variables as sex, race and ethnicity, and cause of death. Information on mortality patterns is key to understanding changes in the health and well-being of the U.S. population (1). Life expectancy estimates, age-adjusted death rates by race and ethnicity and sex, 10 leading causes of death, and 10 leading causes of infant death were analyzed by comparing 2012 final data with 2011 final data.

Other key findings included:

  • The age-adjusted death rate for the United States decreased 1.1% from 2011 to 2012 to a record low of 732.8 per 100,000 standard population.
  • The 10 leading causes of death in 2012 remained the same as in 2011. Age-adjusted death rates decreased significantly from 2011 to 2012 for 8 of the 10 leading causes and increased significantly for one leading cause (suicide).
  • The infant mortality rate decreased 1.5% from 2011 to 2012 to a historic low of 597.8 infant deaths per 100,000 live births. The 10 leading causes of infant death in 2012 remained the same as in 2011.