Eureka moments seem to be becoming rarer in science, and this may be because scientists are meeting each other less often

Eureka moments seem to be becoming rarer in science, and this may be because scientists are meeting each other less often

Nowadays many people work remotely. This can lead to a decrease in the number of groundbreaking discoveries and revolutionary breakthroughs.

One of the great aspects of the modern era is the ability to collaborate, no matter where you are. Scientists can now collaborate with colleagues, even if they live on the other side of the world. This allows for the formation of teams consisting of the most talented minds in the field. However, this also seems to have a striking drawback. because New search It shows that teams that work together in this way produce fewer groundbreaking ideas or radical innovations than teams that meet virtually.

Stady
To determine whether there are indeed fewer revolutionary ideas emerging from science today than in the past, the researchers analyzed data from 20 million research articles published between 1960 and 2020. Peer review Magazines were published. When an article is cited repeatedly, but no reference is made to previous research on the same topic, researchers conclude that it represents a new perspective on the topic. A real eureka moment. To find out which teams worked together in person, and which worked remotely, the researchers used the authors’ institutional affiliations. If all team members are in the same city, they will assume it is a local team and are more likely to meet in person on a regular basis. If at least one team member lives in another city, the team is classified as a remote team.

Fewer pioneering discoveries
The results are clear. “We found that when people were far apart from each other, they made fewer pioneering discoveries,” says researcher Yiling Lin. “Teams that are physically co-located perform better.”

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More interconnectedness
Although computers and the Internet enable the smartest people to work together, this does not automatically mean that there will be more great ideas. “You would think that if we were more connected, we would only get better,” says researcher Lingfei Wu. “But maybe it takes real people in real rooms to do science and generate new and disruptive ideas.”

difference
However, this also raises pressing questions. “What is the fundamental difference between remote collaboration and in-person collaboration?” Lin wonders out loud. In a follow-up study, she wanted to better understand why teams that work together in the same place perform better than teams that work remotely. To find out, I began by analyzing the tasks performed by each researcher in the studies reviewed. She soon makes an interesting discovery. “Remote teams were more focused on technical work, like running experiments and analyzing data,” she explains. This may be because the tools they use, such as computers for programming or algorithms for data analysis, are easily accessible from anywhere. On the other hand, teams that worked together in person engaged in more conceptual work, such as hypothesizing and writing, which was more likely to lead to new and sometimes innovative ideas.

work nature
The team has found their answer. This was clearly the type of work done by scholars. Teams that worked together in person were more likely to do the kind of work that was more likely to lead to eureka moments. However, according to the researchers, this is not yet a completely satisfactory answer. “So far, we’ve scientifically proven that face-to-face communication is essential for these great ideas,” says Wu. “But we’re still curious. Why is this happening?”

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Why
This is a question that researchers have not been able to find an explanation for yet. Although they had cautious doubts. “When we are all together, the cooperation becomes more intense,” Wu believes. “Conversations on Zoom often feel very distant. It discourages spontaneous interactions that can lead to new, bold ideas.

However, this does not mean that remote teams have no value. They also have an important role, especially in missions later in the investigation. However, teams that work together in person are more likely to contribute new, innovative, and groundbreaking ideas. “Cooperation is essential, but it seems that the current system no longer supports us optimally in this,” says Wu. “Breakthrough discoveries require collaboration, but our current research system seems to divide us rather than unite us.”

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