The U.S. research enterprise is larger today than it has ever been, whether measured in terms of numbers of institutions, research groups, investigators, postdoctoral fellows, technicians, graduate students, proposals, funding, research findings, articles, or knowledge produced. Scientific discoveries, patents, and publications in the post-World War II era all demonstrate the remarkable growth that has occurred in every field and discipline.
Federal funding of academic research and development has grown dramatically over the past 30 years, from less than $2 billion in 1958 to more than $8 billion in 1989, in constant 1988 dollars (GUIRR, 1989). The total number of scientists and engineers employed by universities increased from 120,000 in 1958 to 330,000 in 1988, while the number of Ph.D. degrees awarded annually increased from 6,000 to around 19,000 in the same period (GUIRR, 1989). Also during this time period, the annual growth rate in postdoctoral positions was 5 percent for science and 8 percent for engineering (NSB, 1989). While the number of investigators has been increasing, the number of investigator-initiated research proposals has been increasing at an even faster rate. The increase in proposals per investigator is probably related to the strategy of submitting multiple proposals to increase the likelihood of funding.2
The number of science and engineering articles published by academic scientists and engineers has doubled since 1965, with continued rapid growth through 1980 (NSF, 1990c). As with the number of proposals, the increase in articles has resulted from an increase both in the number of researchers and the number of articles produced per researcher per year. Similarly, the number of patents issued to universities, a different measure of research activity, has grown rapidly during the past decade.
Not only have the numbers of journals and articles increased, but the number of authors per article has also increased in fields such as high-energy physics, molecular biology, and clinical medicine. Huth, for example, reported that the mean number of authors per paper for the journals Annals of Internal Medicine and the New England Journal of Medicine rose from 1 in 1925 to 6 in 1985 (Huth, 1988).3 He added that “in some papers the number of authors is clearly excessive for the intellectual activities represented” and that “the climbing number of authors per paper is tending to cheapen the value of authorship” (p. 40).
With more manuscripts submitted for publication and more pro-