We examined whether the publication characteristics of various scientific disciplines
exhibit age-related trends. Our analysis was based on two large data sets comprising
all major scientific disciplines. Citation data for European Research Council grant
holders (ERC, n = 756) were obtained from Google Scholar. Publication data for Hungarian
researchers (HUN, n = 2469) were obtained from the Hungarian Scientific Work Archive.
The evaluated performance parameters include the number of citations received and
the number of high quality first/last author papers published in the last five years.
We designated the time between maximum growth and the achieved maximal annual value
of total citations as the Golden Age of a researcher. Regarding citation growth, the
mean age at the highest growth was 41.75 and 41.53 years for ERC grantees and Hungarian
researchers, respectively. Each discipline had different values, with mathematics
(38.5 years, ERC) and biology (34.7 years, HUN) having the youngest mean age of highest
citation growth and agriculture (45.2 years, ERC) and language sciences (49.9 years,
HUN) having the oldest mean age. The maximal growth of publications occurred at 44.5
years, with physics starting first (40.5 years, HUN) and language sciences as last
(51.4 years, HUN). Most academic careers require decades to reach their peak and the
length of the period of maximum performance varies across disciplines. The most creative
time period is rising and is currently in the second half of the forties. Identifying
the Golden Age in diverse research careers may be of substantial help in the distribution
of grants and tenure positions.