Bagging a Nobel doesn’t guarantee theory’s acceptance

August 8th, 2011 - 7:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Aug 8 (IANS) Resistance to a new idea or theory is so deeply entrenched that even bagging a Nobel Prize won’t guarantee its acceptance by the scientific establishment.

“Even Nobel Prize-winning ideas take a long time to get accepted and the acceptance does not remain stable,” said Christine Charyton, lecturer in psychology of creativity, at Ohio State University, who led the study.

“In many cases, we found that Nobel laureates’ final publication on their idea that won the Prize was lowest in our measures of acceptance,” said Charyton, also a visiting assistant professor at Ohio State.

“While their work is still successful, laureates find their later work doesn’t get the same level of attention and acceptance as their earlier work,” said Charyton, according to an Ohio statement.

The purpose of the study was to find out how creative ideas in the sciences become accepted in their fields, added Charyton.

Charyton mentored Samantha DeDios, who did the work for her senior honours thesis at Ohio State, guided by Thomas Nygren, professor of psychology at Ohio State.

The study involved 204 Nobel laureates from 1980 to 2009 in physics, chemistry and medicine. Researchers measured the effect of the articles that the laureates published in scientific journals — a major way of disseminating scientific findings.

Researchers looked at three key publications: the first publication concerning the idea that won laureates a Nobel Prize; the highest-cited publication concerning their Nobel idea; and the last publication concerning their Nobel idea.

Overall, the findings showed that, on many measures, Nobel laureates’ most highly cited publication was indeed more accepted than their first publication.

Surprisingly, though, the Nobel laureates’ first publication was almost always more accepted than their final publication involving the Nobel-winning idea, except for physicists.

“If the last paper diverges enough from the original idea, it may be seen as a novel idea again, and it will take some time to become accepted,” DeDios said.

These findings were presented at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association in Washington, D.C.

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