There has been a report going around about trends in academic productivity with this graph:
For the story, go here. I would say that one of the reasons work tends to fall off in the 50s is that folks get more administrative responsibilities (department chair, etc) which makes research harder to get out the door. NPSIA will be going through some changes in a year, just when I get back from my sabbatical. So far, it is not clear how the game of musical administrative chairs will play out, but chances are that sometime in my 50s, I will get hit with a major dose of responsibility.
Anyhow, when I saw this graph, my first response, as always, was: what about me? Am I slowing down? Am I on the other side of the hill? So, rather than being productive, I took a few minutes to graph my production over my career:
When I started out, I had hoped to produce a refereed article every
year, but it has not worked out that way. The Joint Staff year, as
wonderful as it was, did not facilitate research, so it produced quite a
gap in 2003-2004. Since then, in years without articles, I have been
able to get other stuff out.
The other pattern is more
policy stuff (purple) recently than before. This is a product both of
my blogging and networking as I get asked more often these days to write
pieces for policy-oriented outlets. And since I am at max promotion
(there is nothing beyond Full Professor and Endowed Chair besides
retirement), I can do stuff that is not as valued by the academic
community. I may not be producing as many refereed articles as in the past, as the article game has become pretty tough and one I enjoy less than the book game.
The patterns thus far do not suggest anything about a drop off happening now or around the corner. We shall see what how productive I am during this sabbatical.