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Is a scientific career predictable?

5 minutes

Science doesn’t rely on luck, but success in science can’t do without it

What – if anything – can be learned from studying the career trajectory of successful scientists? To determine whether predicting trends in future scientific breakthroughs might be possible by examining past performance, an international team led by the physicist Albert-László Barabási at Northeastern University in Boston studied the careers of thousands of scientists across numerous disciplines, charting their most cited papers to gauge impact as a measure of success. While the study reaffirmed previous findings about creativity that show high levels of productivity early in scientists’ careers, there was a surprise in the data. When timing of productivity was removed, the research revealed that impact in a scientist’s career is random, and not correlated to experience. In short, success is a complex function of ability, productivity and luck. The full paper is available at Science magazine.

Video by Nature

Visualisation: Mauro Martino

Video/Music

What happens when rock stardom doesn’t quite work out?

10 minutes

ORIGINAL
Video/History of Ideas

How did the 20th century’s most glamorous intellectual friendship go wrong?

3 minutes

Video/Demography & Migration

On the US-Mexico border, loved ones on both sides can see each other but cannot touch

12 minutes

Idea/Space Exploration

To find aliens, we must think of life as we don’t know it

Ramin Skibba

Video/Mathematics

Going from A to B isn’t always a straight line – but it can be very good fun

2 minutes

Essay/Human Evolution

Sex makes babies

As far as we can tell, no other animal knows this. Did our understanding of baby-making change the course of human history?

Holly Dunsworth & Anne Buchanan

Video/Cosmology

We are born of supernovas – our spectacular and totally ordinary origin story

4 minutes

Idea/History of Science

The most wonderful words in science: ‘We have no idea… yet!’

Daniel Whiteson

Essay/Evolution

Aliens in our midst

The ctenophore’s brain suggests that, if evolution began again, intelligence would re-emerge because nature repeats itself

Douglas Fox