The Burden of Knowledge in Mathematics

Jan Brendel 1  and Sascha Schweitzer 2
  • 1 University of Bayreuth, , Bayreuth, Germany
  • 2 University of Bayreuth, , Bayreuth, Germany


We investigate how the potential burden of processing ever more knowledge has affected the careers and research output of researchers in mathematics over the past 64 years. We construct a panel dataset of 48.851 researchers who published in ten top-ranking journals in mathematics. For this population of researchers, we supplement the dataset with years of birth from public sources. Our results show a significant increase of the average age of researchers at their first publication in one of our top-ranking journals, of the number of references of single-author articles, and of the number of coauthors that contribute to an article. Our findings extend earlier empirical findings on patents, as well as on researchers in economics, and hint at a burden of knowledge pervading different areas of human development. Moreover, our results indicate that researchers develop strategies like the division of labor to deal with this burden.

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