Which researchers really work long hours?

No, not work smart but put in what would appear to be lots of extra hours.  Why not measure who submits papers to journals in the off-work hours?:

Main outcome measures Manuscript and peer review submissions on weekends, on national holidays, and by hour of day (to determine early mornings and late nights). Logistic regression was used to estimate the probability of manuscript and peer review submissions on weekends or holidays.

Results The analyses included more than 49 000 manuscript submissions and 76 000 peer reviews. Little change over time was seen in the average probability of manuscript or peer review submissions occurring on weekends or holidays. The levels of out of hours work were high, with average probabilities of 0.14 to 0.18 for work on the weekends and 0.08 to 0.13 for work on holidays compared with days in the same week. Clear and consistent differences were seen between countries. Chinese researchers most often worked at weekends and at midnight, whereas researchers in Scandinavian countries were among the most likely to submit during the week and the middle of the day.

Emphasis added.  Get this, you lazy bastards:

The average probability of a manuscript being submitted at the weekend for both journals was 0.14, and for a peer review it was 0.18. Peer review submissions during holidays had average probabilities of 0.13 (The BMJ) and 0.12 (BMJ Open), which were higher than the probabilities for manuscripts of 0.08 (The BMJ) and 0.10 (BMJ Open).

For weekend paper submission, China appears to be at about 0.22, India at about 0.09, see Figure 1.  France, Italy, Spain, and Brazil all submit quite late in the afternoon, often a bit after 6 p.m.

That is from a new paper by Adrian Barnett, Inger Mewburn, and Sara Schroter.  They do not tell us when they submitted it, but I wrote this blog post a wee bit after 8 p.m.

Via Michelle Dawson.


BMJ, the British Medical Journal? These people generally work for a living and only have time to do this kind of stuff on weekends!

Most medical journal authors are primarily academics, though of course many are credentialed clinicians. At least in the US, a lot of these folks may carve out a day per week to see patients, but they spend the bulk of their time conducting research or teaching.

What if the work was done during weekdays and only sent out on weekends or holidays? Like people sending out emails at odd times to give the impression that they put in long hours.

Indeed, one of the benefits of being a researcher is that for many of us, there is no such thing as "on-work" or "off-work" hours aside from teaching and administrative commitments. I do plenty of work on weekends and "off-work" hours; sometimes I don't do much of anything during the day; and I am hardly the only one to have such a pattern (or lack thereof).

Point is, using "off-work hours" as a proxy for total work is a terrible idea. At best you can maybe make some distinction between those who work standard hours and those who don't. But even that is a stretch: the information simply isn't there.

Interested to see a follow up study that looks at paper quality (acceptance rate or references) vs. submission time.

Yes, this was exactly the comment that I was about to make.

At least in my field, the quality is bad, and the sheer volume of papers is destroying fields b/c they have gone from in-person program committee meetings of a somewhat select group (where there is peer pressure to not be a moron) to dispersed committees of poor quality researchers (where the lack of in-person means there is no real pressure to do a good job). The poor quality of reviews is astonishing, which means that good papers get rejected and garbage gets published.

I would expect BMJ to be about medicine, but its latest issue apparently full of bs "politically correct" articles and of course even an article about Trump.

Lol, that is not an article "about Trump." It's an article about the academic journal complex demanding that the US gov not implement a requirement that articles based on federally research be accessible without subscription. It'd actually a great policy to make publicly supported research freely accessible immediately and no wonder the journals oppose it.

*federally-funded research

I'd like to read ferrally-funded research.

That article was in the Christmas BMJ edition where there is an emphasis on light-hearted articles.

In some former Soviet countries it is not uncommon for Saturday (at least the morning) to be a semi-official work day. It is sort of a slow time without a lot of meetings. I wonder if any other countries in this study operate that way.

In some fields, (e.g. Comp Sci) most submissions are to conferences with international deadlines, so local submission time is related to time zone.

I’m guessing Western China doesn’t have a high concentration of academics? Mostly rural, yes? Or else the one-China-time-zone could significantly alter that country’s numbers...

Also paper submission time doesn’t necessarily reflect longer hours during the actual research phase. Certain cultures may just be more prone to “getting the damn thing done” when you’re in the home stretch.

Breaking news: Asians work hard.

It would be interesting to look at this by gender.

It seems obvious to do so. I wonder if the researchers ran this regression, saw that the coefficients were politically incorrect, and decided not to include them.

I'll bite on the trawling - what do you think would be the politically incorrect answer?

Mainly because I cannot imagine any answer being politically incorrect.

Much of the literature on publication outcomes pushes the view point that women's lower success rates in tenure / citation / publication are solely due to discrimination.

Adding a gender dummy to the regressions in this paper would allow the authors to test another hypothesis: that women work less hard (at least as measured by their methodology).

Note: women having less off hours submissions doesn't mean they work less hard. They might simply laze about less during the day. However, to the extent the authors gave that justification, they would be arguing against their own research design.

Ah - you realize that a number of commenters here have already thoroughly discredited the idea that this is a useful measure of how hard a researcher works.

Thank you for the answer, as I could not imagine why gender would matter in the least.

I don’t get what I’m supposed to learn from this. (And I’m an academic and have published in the top journals in my field.) Also, I find my work quality goes to crap long before I get to midnight, but boy do I sure feel like I’m working hard!

This is a curious study, but I think there are many possible confounds here, several of them already mentioned. One not mentioned is how much variation across countries there is in terms of how much people actually do during official work hours.

As it is, I think I have a high rate of submitting papers late at night. I have been accused by quite a few people of being a "workaholic," but I also happen to be one of those "late night" people who in fact is often more productive after midnight than at other times of the day.

This makes me wonder if there are national differences in that particular phenomenon, either having more people who are "late night" or "very early morning" types. I do not know.

I've read that in Spain and Portugal, if you eat dinner at 10pm you're an early bird. The evening doesn't really get going until midnight.

But I haven't been to either country, I don't know if this is weekend behavior only, urban only, educated or upper-income only, etc. etc.

Conversely, in a class about South Asian civilization we constantly read about Hindu practices that emphasized activities or rituals performed around sunrise. But I haven't been to India either so I don't know if those practices, like daily mass for Catholics in the US, have become rarer over time.

It would certainly make sense for people who live in hot climates with little air conditioning to arise early and get some work done before it gets too hot to more.

I'm a night owl myself. Like Barkley, it's often not until midnight that I really get going on work items.

My colleague from India complained about brownouts during his doctoral research. I wonder if unreliable electric grids contributes to more work during non-peak hours.

Ridiculously noisy proxy as noted by many others. I doubt the Scandi researchers don't work long hours, but I can see them being tough on submitting papers at "odd" hours and working down to the wire. Seem like cultures where you get things done, properly, well before deadline or your deadline gets extended (contra China?).

The NYTimes also reported on this article. Their story didn't seem to add much to what's already been discussed here, but it did include this photo that manages to be both seasonally relevant and highly on topic:

It is really hard work

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