Rating Growth of Scientific Knowledge and Risk from Theory Bubbles
Abraham Loeb (Harvard)
(Submitted on 26 Aug 2011)
In physics the value of a theory is measured by its agreement with experimental data. But how should the physics community gauge the value of an emerging theory that has not been tested experimentally as of yet? With no reality check, a hypothesis like string theory may linger for a while before physicists will know its actual value in describing nature. In this short article, I advocate the need for a website operated by graduate students that will use various measures of publicly available data (such as the growth rate of newly funded experiments, research grants, publications, and faculty jobs) to gauge the future dividends of various research frontiers. The analysis can benefit from past experience (e.g. in research areas that suffered from limited experimental data over long periods of time) and aim to alert the community of the risk from future theory bubbles.
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