Published online by Cambridge University Press: 07 February 2021
The exponential growth of science has continued, virtually uninterrupted, for decades. What does this mean for contemporary scientists? With the scientific literature doubling every 12 years, the practice of science is characterized by immediacy: 80 to 90 percent of all scientists who have ever lived are alive now. That means that science is becoming more competitive. If one invididual doesn’t make a discovery, someone else likely will. We explore the implications of this growth and competition for scientists from a training and employment standpoint, finding that it is increasingly difficult to earn a PhD and to locate a job in academia after a doctorate is earned. That doesn’t mean that making it as a scientist is impossible – the dearth of jobs in academia has led to a shift toward industry, where many scientists thrive. We end the chapter by asking if new discoveries require more effort than they did in the past. We can answer this question by comparing the growth rate of the workforce compared with the growth rate of producitivity, finding that there is relative stability in individual productivity over a wide range of disciplines.