I suppose I don’t have to mention why you’re hearing the phrase “exponential growth” a lot these days, as we’re all doing our best to care for ourselves and our families, as well as keeping our businesses, libraries, and research programs afloat amidst a pandemic. As always, being informed is important, and you can find below an excellent explainer video, essentially a math lesson on what the experts mean when they describe the spread of the disease in this way. Stay safe.

David Crotty

David Crotty

David Crotty is a Senior Consultant at Clarke & Esposito, a boutique management consulting firm focused on strategic issues related to professional and academic publishing and information services. Previously, David was the Editorial Director, Journals Policy for Oxford University Press. He oversaw journal policy across OUP’s journals program, drove technological innovation, and served as an information officer. David acquired and managed a suite of research society-owned journals with OUP, and before that was the Executive Editor for Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, where he created and edited new science books and journals, along with serving as a journal Editor-in-Chief. He has served on the Board of Directors for the STM Association, the Society for Scholarly Publishing and CHOR, Inc., as well as The AAP-PSP Executive Council. David received his PhD in Genetics from Columbia University and did developmental neuroscience research at Caltech before moving from the bench to publishing.


6 Thoughts on "What Does “Exponential Growth” Mean?"

Excellent mix of graphical and mathematical illustration! Thanks for sharing!

The closing statement is profound. “If people are sufficiently worried, then there’s a lot less to worry about. But if noone is worried, that’s when you should worry.”

When someone mentions how “fill in the blank” is increasing exponentially, I always ask them what the exponent is. I’ve never received an answer – they usually just stop and go into what looks like a trance.

Just a technical math answer–exponential growth is about the base of the exponent not the exponent itself. For example, a real-life money application in compound interest, if you had a base of 1.1 you are getting a 10% compound interest compared to a base of 1.005 you are getting 0.5% interest rate. Your exponent is simply how often the interest is calculated, but the base is *much* *more* *important*.

Great teaching tool! Cuts through all the B.S. going around. Thanks.

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