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The Appraisal – Scientific disruption: what is it, and do we need it?

by Phil Prime | Podcast

25 July 2023

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In this new podcast series, Executive Director of Research & Innovation at Cancer Research UK and CEO of Cancer Research Horizons, Dr Iain Foulkes brings you crisp insight and analysis from the sharp end of research leadership.

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series The Appraisal with Dr Iain Foulkes


A recent Nature paper has suggested ‘disruptive’ science is declining. So, what actually is disruptive science in terms of cancer research, and should we think of it as negative or positive? In other words, is it important? Do we really need ‘disruption’ at all – maybe steady iteration is more productive? Let some big picture thinking from Iain Foulkes help clarify your thoughts around all this…

Some useful links:

“The number of science and technology research papers published has skyrocketed over the past few decades — but the ‘disruptiveness’ of those papers has dropped, according to an analysis of how radically papers depart from the previous literature”
The Nature paper on ‘disruption in science’.

“Grants, for example, often err on the side of safe bets, resulting in published research that only marginally advances existing knowledge.”

STAT News article by Juergen Eckhardt of Leaps by Bayer and George Church at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.