Austrian researchers have identified a “critical mass” of scientists for dominating the scientific field

(ORDO NEWS) — To find out if there is a “critical mass” of scientists needed for a region to dominate a certain scientific field, Austrian scientists tracked the movements of millions of their colleagues around the world.

When a person wants to open the most popular cafe in the area, he has to invest in many things – from acquiring a premises to hiring chefs and waiters.

When it comes to making a region a leader in a particular area of ​​research, policy makers and investors face a similar situation: before they can benefit, financial investments are required to procure scientific equipment and attract researchers.

According to scientists from the Complexity Science Hub (Austria), “early investment in new areas of research is a key factor in scientific dominance.”

Once a pioneer creates a new field of study or invents a technology, others are more likely to follow.

A large scientific center, in turn, is more likely to be joined by newcomers, which stimulates the development of the discipline.

But how many scientists will it take for a particular region to achieve dominance in a certain field?

To answer this question, the researchers focused on three research areas that are now experiencing a surge in popularity: semiconductors, embryonic stem cells, and research related to the Internet.

After tracking the movements of 20 million researchers from about 98 thousand scientific institutions, scientists came to the conclusion that there is no “critical mass” and in fact only the discoverers are important.

If a region has time to “jump into the car” when the scientific direction is just beginning to develop, then with a high degree of probability it will succeed in this area.

Latecomers have to make extraordinary efforts to achieve similar results – as is the case, for example, in China.

The state has to stimulate scientific areas with financial investments for decades in order to catch up: for example, although China began research in the field of semiconductors only in the 1970s (for comparison, they began in the USA in the 1940s), today it dominates in this area thanks to the strong support from the state.

The results clearly show that if the regions want to become leaders in any area, they should try to get involved in the process at an early stage.

You can catch up, but it comes with huge financial costs. It is also worth noting that there may be additional factors affecting the scientific potential of the region.

And it is not a fact that, for example, India will be able to repeat the Chinese “success story”.

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