Higher Education

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 37–55 | Cite as

Age and scientific productivity. Differences between fields of learning

  • Svein Kyvik


This article analyzes the relationship between age and scientific productivity at Norwegian universities. Cross-sectional data indicate that publishing activity reaches a peak in the 45–49 year old age group and declines by 30 per cent among researchers over 60 years old. Large differences exist, however, between fields of learning. In the social sciences productivity remains more or less at the same level in all age groups. In the humanities publishing activity declines in the 55–59 year old age group, but it reaches a new peak in the group 60 years old and over. Productivity declines in the medical sciences among faculty members who are older than 55, while in the natural sciences, productivity continually decreases with increasing age.

This article suggests that the differences between the various fields of learning arise from corresponding differences in the development of scientific disciplines. In fields where the production of new knowledge is fast and where new scientific methods and equipment are continuously introduced, researchers may have problems coping and thus become obsolescent. In fields where knowledge production occurs at a slower pace, e.g. the social sciences and the humanities, faculty may be productive throughout their careers. This explanation gains further support when looking at various natural and medical science disciplines. Older faculty members in physics are less productive than older researchers in mathematics, and older scientists in biomedicine are less productive than their colleagues of the same age in social medicine.


Social Science Faculty Member Natural Science Medical Science Scientific Method 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Svein Kyvik
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Studies in Research and Higher Education, Norwegian Research Council for Science and the HumanitiesOsloNorway

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