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The Development of Scientific Talent in Westinghouse Finalists and Members of the National Academy of Sciences

Abstract

This paper reports the results of two studies on the development of scientific talent among the scientific elite: finalists in the Westinghouse Science Competition and members of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Sampling four cohorts of finalists, we examined whether these gifted teenagers actually do go on to be the best scientists of the next generation by coding education and career outcomes. Finalists were quite successful and stayed mostly within science and medicine for their career choice. A rather high—although marginally unequal—portion of male (91%) and female (74%) finalists earned a doctoral degree. Women were also more likely to change to non-scientific professions than men. Among the most compelling findings from the NAS study were: age that scientific talent was recognized by self and others was an important predictor of early publication, which in turn was an important predictor of lifetime productivity. Growth curve analyses suggested a cubic model best fit productivity data over time. Moreover, in both samples there was an association between scientific achievement and recent immigrant status. Various theoretical models are discussed as possible explanations for the developmental, gender, and immigrant-status findings on scientific talent.

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Correspondence to Gregory J. Feist.

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Feist, G.J. The Development of Scientific Talent in Westinghouse Finalists and Members of the National Academy of Sciences. J Adult Dev 13, 23–35 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10804-006-9002-3

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Keywords

  • psychology of science
  • achievement
  • career outcomes
  • gender
  • immigrant status