Long-term research: Slow science
Although science is a long-term pursuit, research is often practised over short timescales: a discrete experiment or a self-contained project constrained by the length of a funding cycle. But some investigations cannot be rushed. To study human lifespans or the roiling of Earth’s crust and the Sun’s surface, for instance, requires decades and even centuries.
Here, Nature takes a look at five of science’s longest-running projects, some of which have been amassing data continuously for centuries. Some generate hundreds of papers a year; one produces a single data point per decade.