Correspondence

Nature 450, 1156 (20 December 2007) | doi:10.1038/4501156a; Published online 19 December 2007

Come all ye scientists, busy and exhausted. O come ye, O come ye, out of the lab

Richard J. Ladle1, Ana C. M. Malhado1 & Peter A. Todd2

  1. Oxford University Centre for the Environment, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3QY, UK
  2. Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore, 117543 Singapore

Sir

Will you be working on Christmas Day this year? We have found evidence that increasing numbers of scientists are swapping party hats for mouse mats during the festive season.

We searched for 'Received on 25 December [year]', using Google Scholar, to find out how many submissions were made to academic journals on Christmas Day between 1996 and 2006. Even taking into account the overall increase in the volume of submissions, there were about 600% more manuscripts received by journals on 25 December in 2006 than in 1996 (Figure 1). This trend is still apparent when papers submitted from institutions in Europe and North America are considered in isolation.

Figure 1: Can't see the wood for the trees? Take a break.
Figure 1 : Can't see the wood for the trees? Take a break. Unfortunately we are unable to provide accessible alternative text for this. If you require assistance to access this image, or to obtain a text description, please contact npg@nature.com

Proportion of published papers submitted on 25 December relative to mean number submitted on the 25th of the month (excluding weekends) for all other months in that calendar year. R2 = 0.69.

High resolution image and legend (31K)

We suggest four potential reasons for this move towards seasonal workaholism among scientists.

First, we are collectively falling victim to the 'publish or perish' institutional culture, in which our professional success depends almost exclusively on our publication record.

Second, the pressure on scientists to publish is paralleled by an increase in their administrative and teaching workloads. This pushes research and, in particular, writing into vacation periods.

Third, with the wide-scale implementation of electronic submission systems in the late 1990s, most journals are now 'open for business' every day of the year.

Although Christmas Day seems to be an ideal opportunity to get on with some blissfully uninterrupted research, we would urge our fellow scientists to keep their laptops turned off and enjoy a bit of Christmas spirit. You never know, Santa might then be more inclined to bring you that most popular of presents — a paper published in Nature!

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