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Paper: Attention decay in science

  1. Mar 15, 2015 #1
    Wonder if our resident researchers and scientists feel this way?

  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 15, 2015 #2
    I have often considered somethings similar to this. For example there are so many crappy textbooks out there that a student trying to learn something can be faced with the trouble of simply trying to search through all the ones available just to find one that is good. Then upon getting that book it doesn't suit their learning style. As a result we often waste so much time studying from lacking materials or waste time searching for better ones. I imagine there's probably some correlation to this idea in the game of dating when there's a large dating pool. Anyhow, I know this is not the same as what you're talking about, but it's similar. Maybe a better question I've pondered is in doing research for journalism. A person is looking for particular bits of information, but there's so much out there it's difficult to find what you'e looking for even though you know it exists and have a clear idea of what you want. The problem isn't you don't know, it's that your search results are too vast to find what you need so you end up with nothing. LOL humorously this means that the problem with the information age is that there's too much information to actually learn what you're trying to even if it's available - unless you are the source of that information in your own lab or experiment etc...
  4. Mar 16, 2015 #3


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    Actually, the way I define it, the issue is not too much information, but too much noise. I define information on topic x to be anything that reduces the options/alternatives on determining a quality about x and different statements provide different measures of information on x. Example: information on determining the identity of a given person: the person's height, hair color. provides a good measure of information on the identity of the person, because knowing these two pieces of data narrows down the choices on who this person is. A statement with less informational content: the person is between 3' and 6' tall , since it does not narrow down the possibilities. Under this definition I think the problem is too much data with too little informational content.
  5. Mar 16, 2015 #4
    In some circumstances I would agree. But the problem is that often there is lots of useful data, just not useful for the particular individual who found it. I guess we could say "one man's noise is another man's data" LOL :D
  6. Mar 16, 2015 #5


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    Yes,good point, maybe were relatively early into the information age and we do not yet have good-enough data mining, both at a personal and industrial/institutional level.
  7. Mar 16, 2015 #6


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    When a paper presents a significant result, the result is likely going to make it into review articles. Eventually it's not the initial paper that gets cited, but rather the reviews. Those reviews eventually make it into textbooks, and the textbooks become cited as the result becomes part of the established theory within the field.

    I'm not sure how one could account for this kind of lifespan-impact as compared to a perceived impact decay as measured by number of citations alone.

    With respect to the issue of simply keeping track of all the relevant literature in my field, I have to admit its quite difficult. I have about a half dozen journals that I try to read on a regular basis maybe a half dozen more that are more peripheral, but often contain relevant stuff. I use Google Scholar's Alerts to email me summaries of recent publications for specific key words - unfortunately I find only about 10% of these are relevant. On top of that there are all the newer "open access" journals that while in some cases add good stuff, in others add in a lot of noise.
  8. Mar 16, 2015 #7


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    Sorry, I do not have time to read this paper!

    Companies like Google and Facebook make billions with approaches to this problem.
  9. Mar 26, 2015 #8


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    Of course also the number of students has escalated in the same proportion.
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