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Science Booming

Scientists, as a group, have been quite busy, and have been for quite some time. They have increased the number of papers and research findings they publish at a rate of around eight to nine percent per year, according to a new analysis.

That means researchers around the world have been roughly doubling global scientific output every nine years, two bibliometric analysts say, as Nature reports.

But how long has this trend been going on?

The authors of the study, which is to be published in the Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, say they found that scientists have likely been keeping up this rate of increase since the end of World War II.

"We identified three growth phases in the development of science, which each led to growth rates tripling in comparison with the previous phase: from less than 1 percent up to the middle of the 18th century, to 2 to 3 percent up to the period between the two world wars and, to 8 to 9 percent to 2012,” they write.

As a disclaimer, Lutz Bornmann at the Max Planck Society and Ruediger Mutz at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology note that their analysis is extremely rough.

Their method defined scientific output as any reference, including papers, books, datasets, and websites, that is subsequently cited by another academic publication in the Web of Science database. They analyzed a total of 7555 million cited references in 38 million publications between 1980 and 2012 to work up their growth rate figures.

This approach can be rough in part because of the aging effect, meaning that very old papers are less likely to be mentioned by academics publishing after the 1980s and onwards.