Re: Why growth may stay slow

Robin Hanson (hanson@econ.Berkeley.EDU)
Mon, 23 Mar 1998 11:10:48 -0800

Dan C. writes:
>> Actually, the corpus of academic knowledge, as measured by the person-years of
>> academic research and by published articles, has been doubling every decade I
>> think for ~150 years. Recently this rate has SLOWED DOWN as academic has
>> reached budget limits. See "Little Science, Big Science" book.
>Hmm, this would mean that we are producing roughly 32,000 times as many papers
>per year as we were in 1848. ...
>Can you recommend other measures of technical progress? Mine are almost all
>apocriphal or qualitative.

OK, I pulled the book off my shelf and figure 1.1 (p.8) shows the number of
scientific journals doubling every 15 years since ~1730. On p. 5, the author says:

"Now depending on what one measures and how, the crude size of science in manpower
or in publications tend to double within a period of 10 to 15 years. The 10-year
period emerges from those catchall measures that do not distinguish low-grade work
from high but adopt a basic minimal definition of science; the 15-year period
resultswhen one is more selective, counting only somed more stringent definition
of publishedscientific work and those who produce it. If this stringency is
increased so that onlyscientific work of very high quality is counted, then the
doubling period is drawn out so that it approaches about 20 years."

He then lists a bunch of assorted measures and their doubling times.

The book is: Derek J. de Solla Price, "Little Science, Big Science, and Beyond",
published in 1966.

Robin Hanson
RWJF Health Policy Scholar, Sch. of Public Health 510-643-1884
140 Warren Hall, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-7360 FAX: 510-643-8614