String research down 33% in one year--ideas why? The index here uses the Harvard abstract database with these six keywords = superstring, M-theory, brane, compactification, heterotic, AdS/CFT It counts peer-review publication of professional journal articles. How it changes from year to year helps gauge research activity. Looking just at the first three months of each year we get the following publication counts: 2002 1340 2006 1442 2007 1433 2008 952 For the first four months of each year, 2002 1596 2006 1800, 2007 1781 2008 1179 For the first six months 2002 2212 2006 2537 2007 2513 2008 ... ? The data aren't in for the first six months of 2008 so here is the link. http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/n...txt_wgt=YES&ttl_sco=YES&txt_sco=YES&version=1 When we check this link in July it will give the count. This is something of a mystery. What could be the cause of this puzzling abrupt change? I have watched this kind of publication index over the years and it has always been slowly changing. If you use the same keywords year after year the annual change is small. Not anything like 30%. So this should make you curious. Has there been a computer failure at the Harvard library? A general strike of librarians? Have these six keywords abruptly become unfashionable? Does this correlate with other indices of research health or is it just an isolated oddity? The way we test our understanding is by predicting. In this case what do you think the index will be for six months? After that, we can try for the whole year. My guess is that there are some fundamental reasons which will have a long-lasting effect. Perhaps, if anyone reads this and takes an interest, they can suggest some. BTW I hope nobody is naive enough to jump to the conclusion that research stats are a way of determining the ultimate validity or invalidity of extradimensional stringy investigations. That's something Nature will presumably decide after there is an explicit theory that makes definitive new predictions. So, for starters, what's your guess about the first six months of 2008?