Ever wonder why one day we’re told to drink more wine instead of exercise, but then the next day hear that it’s actually better to increase the number of daily cups of coffee you consume? Or why eating fat is bad for you, except for an ever-changing list of “good fats?” And that you should totally practice meditation every single day, but maybe keep hot yoga out of your routine? Or wait, was that pilates?
Well, it took a study to confirm it, but researchers have concluded there are way too many studies out there. No wonder we’re so confused.
In a paper produced by Finland’s Aalto University, professors argue that scholars are forgetting about studies far faster than in the past because they’re practically drowning in them. The result?
“It [is] increasingly difficult for researchers to keep track of all the publications relevant to their work,” the study begins. “Consequently, the attention that can be devoted to individual papers, measured by their citation counts, is bound to decay rapidly.”
In other words, not only is there too much contradictory research out there, but the time scholars spend on higher quality, heavily-researched studies is dropping as well.
It’s a trend we can all relate to — just think about all the viral hoax videos you’ve fallen for. With so much content filling up the web, we sometimes inadvertently blur the lines between fact and fiction and end up believing in the impossible, like that a shark could actually live in Lake Ontario. Or putting cut up onions in the dark corners of your house will ward off a cough.
But at least when the average Joe slips up like that, there isn’t much consequence, other than the sheer embarrassment of the gaff. When researchers and scholars start falling victim to the same pressures though, there’s a real possibility that important data and research theories could be overlooked.
And that’s why the study you just read telling you to drink more coffee could be false, or the one telling you to drink less wine could be a load of crap. Sadly, the professors with Aalto University say the problem is only getting worse.
“Interestingly, the decay is getting faster and faster, indicating that scholars ‘forget’ more easily papers now than in the past. We found that this has to do with the exponential growth in the number of publications, which inevitably accelerates the turnover of papers, due to the finite capacity of scholars to keep track of the scientific literature.”
It would appear then, in an ironic twist, that the age of information is quickly becoming the age of misinformation.
Now excuse us while we go figure out the proper amount of wine to down with dinner.