After some time, I checked the work of all the people listed in shortlists at the
This strikingly differs from the best years of the discipline.
I think that the atmosphere behind this heavily skewed statistics is extremely unhealthy and is working on the elimination of the elite status of high-energy physics among the scientific disciplines. Pretty much all the people in the list are concerned with some analyses of ongoing or near-future experiments and wonderful interpretations of what the various findings could mean.
However, there have been no discoveries of new physics. Some new physics will eventually be found but the strategy to speculate about too many details of the models that could be the next experimental discovery – a way to describe the driver behind much of work on the hep-ph archive – simply hasn't been successful in recent years and decades. The lasting value was predominantly found by hep-th theorists.
It seems to me that the decrease of the hiring of ingenious young theorists in the field has already been apparent in the quality and excitement of the hep-th literature in recent years. There have been some ingenious or near-ingenious papers but they usually get very little attention simply because there aren't too many people who are near the top and who could write interesting followups. Instead, the high energy literature is getting filled with lots of papers that "almost everyone with the appropriate kind of PhD could write", i.e. average papers. Something that would make me scream "Wow" is even rarer than ever before. This worrisome comparison works even for papers by the same folks who happen to publish some wonderful theoretical papers as well as somewhat ordinary phenomenological ones.
It's clear to me that almost no one who is really responsible for this trend is listening to me; this is clearly done deliberately. Still, I find the trend immensely pathological. Both the global statistical overview as well as my knowledge of the stories of individual people makes it clear to me that the best young people in high-energy physics – and yes, most (but not all) of those whom I would count into this group are hep-th folks – are struggling in extremely modest jobs while the average folks (sorry, I won't name particular names) are having the green light everywhere.
Especially because it's so likely that Nature will continue to be austere in the new effects it will allow us to discover, and this fact has become even more clear when the new experiments were actually launched and their first data analyzed, it's more important than ever to build physicists' work on something else than a wishful thinking and speculative belief in fireworks that may be demonstrated by direct experiments. That's a very cheap, and probably ultimately counterproductive, strategy to build and maintain the skeleton of what used to be known as science's most prestigious discipline and whose foundations used to be far deeper and more far-reaching and ambitious.