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7 - Hot Streaks

from Part I - The Science of Career

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 February 2021

Dashun Wang
Affiliation:
Northwestern University, Illinois
Albert-László Barabási
Affiliation:
Northeastern University, Boston
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Summary

We begin by detailing Einstein’s “miracle year,” during which he published four major discoveries. We discuss the debate over the existence of hot streaks in sports, and ask if a hot-streak phenomenon exists in science. To address this question, we look at the relative timing of hit works during a career, which is captured mathematically by a normalized joint probability. We find that hit works are more likely to colocate than they would by chance, indicating that hot streaks do occur. So while the timing of each highest impact work is random, the relative timing of top papers in a scientist’s career shows a high degree of temporal clustering. To account for these patterns, we introduce a slight variation to the Q-model – a brief period of elevated impact. We call this the “hot-streak model.” The model shows us that hot streaks are ubiquitous across creative careers, that they usually occur only once, and that they occur randomly. We then discuss the implications of these findings for scientists and science administrators, using the life of John Fenn as an example of how the hot-streak model can provide a hopeful framework for scientists still waiting for their big break.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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  • Hot Streaks
  • Dashun Wang, Northwestern University, Illinois, Albert-László Barabási, Northeastern University, Boston
  • Book: The Science of Science
  • Online publication: 07 February 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108610834.009
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  • Hot Streaks
  • Dashun Wang, Northwestern University, Illinois, Albert-László Barabási, Northeastern University, Boston
  • Book: The Science of Science
  • Online publication: 07 February 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108610834.009
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Hot Streaks
  • Dashun Wang, Northwestern University, Illinois, Albert-László Barabási, Northeastern University, Boston
  • Book: The Science of Science
  • Online publication: 07 February 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108610834.009
Available formats
×