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Associate Professor Ben Jones

Associate Professor Ben Jones

Age and great invention

Scientists are making their breakthrough discoveries later in life than ever, finds Associate Professor Benjamin Jones, winner of the 2011 Stanley Reiter Best Paper Award

5/20/2011 - Scientific innovation has been a reliable motivating force behind economic growth. But Associate Professor Ben Jones has discovered that as more becomes known about the world, scientists take longer to acquire the knowledge needed to make the next breakthrough.

The age at which a researcher achieves “great achievement” — such as a Nobel Prize-worthy discovery — trended up by between five and six years across the 20th century. The age at which scientists obtain their PhDs has also trended up proportionally. “As our understanding gets deeper, it takes people longer to get to the knowledge frontier from which they can step forward,” Jones says.

Jones explores these findings in his paper “Age and Great Invention,” winner of the 2011 Stanley Reiter Best Paper Award. The honor is bestowed by Kellogg School faculty on a research paper judged to be the best of those published between 2007 and 2010.

Learn more about the implications of Jones’ research in Kellogg Insight.