The Corpus Callosum

The Inevitable Decline of Science

According to Google, we are heading into a bad season for


This is from Google
.  Every December, there is a steep drop in
the number of searches conducted for “science.”  Plus, there
has been a year-to-year decline.  What could it possibly mean?


  1. #1 Richard Goldman
    November 17, 2007

    I know exactly what this means–the nationwide trend of a decline in young people going into scientific research careers is now (naturally) being reflected in online search numbers. As a researcher in the exciting realm of genetics, I have been disappointed to see fewer and fewer college graduates looking to go into genetic research–or ANY sort of scientific research–as the years have gone by. Perhaps we need our president to pull another JFK and jerk this country out of its scientific doldrums.

    The news isn’t all bad, however. Just yesterday, I read a fascinating article about some unique scientific research taking place at a small college in northern New York State (go to to read this article, which all of you reading this should do). This college, Plattsburgh State University, owns the world’s largest collection of Maya skeletons (588 of them!!), and students at that college are currently working on a long-term project of extracting and analyzing the ancient DNA from these skeletons. This is no fly-by-night project, but a thorough investigation where it sounds like strict parameters have been set and are being adhered to. The two students who are working on this research recently won an award at the national Sigma Xi Research Symposium for their efforts, an award that sounds well-deserved.

    The best part of this for me? It was an article about students gaining national recognition in the sciences, and was written by another student who obviously appreciated their efforts (and should probably earn a national award in journalism for this engaging reporting). Signs like this show, even in spite of the very negative trends we often hear about in the media, there is hope for the scientific research world after all!

  2. #2 MaxieZ
    November 17, 2007

    If I had to guess I’d say this ties directly to when school is in session. You’ll note there is a dip in summer break as well as the winter break.

  3. #3 Benjamin Franz
    November 17, 2007

    That depends on whether Google Trends numbers are ‘absolute’ or ‘relative’.

    If they represent the absolute number of queries for the word ‘science’, then there is a real decline.

    If they represent the relative number of queries for the word ‘science’, it may just reflect a larger pool of people on the net over time (less geeks, more average people).

  4. #4 Kevin
    November 17, 2007

    I offer a several additional questions that may be relevant.

    1)Is the number of science oriented web sites growing?

    2)Is the amount of traffic to science oriented web sites (ScienceBlogs being a good example)growing?

    3)People are increasingly Google savvy. “Science” is a generic term. What has the trend been for keywords related to specific disciplines or interests?

  5. #5 Lassi Hippeläinen
    November 17, 2007

    @Richard Goldman: please stop thinking that Google trends are a national issue. There are many countries in the Internet; several of them use Latin-based words like “science”.

    The decreasing trend, if it is relative, can simply reflect a shift in languages. The non-English-speaking countries are catching up.

  6. #6 Greg Laden
    November 17, 2007

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