, Volume 120, Issue 2, pp 793–805 | Cite as

The strong nonlinear effect in academic dropout

  • Yanmeng Xing
  • An ZengEmail author
  • Ying FanEmail author
  • Zengru Di


Survivability is one of the features for success in contemporary science ecosystem. In this paper, we analyze the publication records of physicists in American Physical Society journals, aiming to identify the career length of each researcher and accordingly investigate the dropout phenomenon in science by the example of physicists. We find that scientific career is a complex nonlinear evolution process and can be generally divided into four stages regarding the dropout rate. In the early career, the dropout rate from trainee phase to maturity is high and negatively correlated with the research performance of the scientists, in both productivity and impact. Moreover, a strong nonlinearity is observed when we study the detailed relationship between the dropout rate and research performance. Interestingly, in the more mature stage of the career, the dropout rate becomes stable and independent of the early performance of the scientists. In the late career stage, the dropout rate increases and is mainly determined by retirement and external factors. The findings in this paper may provide useful guidance for young scholars to allocate their research effort in the early career.


Academic career Dropout rate Nonlinearity 



This work is supported by the Natural Science Foundation of Beijing (Grant No. L160008) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 61603046).


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Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Systems ScienceBeijing Normal UniversityBeijingPeople’s Republic of China

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