Interesting article by Ben McNeil in Ars Technica on creativity, age profiles and funding systems including:
Although unconventional and risky research can be pursued at any age, it seems to come much easier to younger scientists. That may be because they have more time to allocate to one idea and are less susceptible to the “curse of knowledge”—the cognitive bias that tends to make experience stifle one’s ability to come up with or accept new, unconventional, or creative ideas.
The 30- to 40-year-old period has often been described as “the golden years” for creative discovery, a perfect mix of time, enthusiasm, naivety, and just enough experience to produce optimal creativity.
Whether the age correlation is widely true or not, I like the list of ingredients, especially the inclusion of the word ‘naivety’. It’s probably true that after a certain age, cynicism and a ‘been there/seen it’ attitude all too easily creep in and innocence and naivety make a rapid exit.
However, as mentioned in the quote above, the continual ability to learn and change is also an important factor – not to mention luck of course!
On a related theme, there’s a discussion of ‘lean periods’ in research here.
Picture credit here.