Jay Van Bavel, a social neuroscientist at New York University, is vowing not to work during the Christmas holidays.
A few years ago, Dr. Van Bavel had agreed to conduct peer review on a couple of manuscripts before the end of the semester. But he got really busy and ended up having to do one on Christmas Day and another on New Year’s Eve, while his family was visiting.
“I felt like I let down myself and my family,” said Dr. Van Bavel, who gets asked to conduct peer-review 100 to 200 times a year. But he says he has now learned his lesson, and is not planning to do any work in the Christmas holidays this year, except perhaps the odd email.
If Dr. Van Bavel holds to his vow, he’ll beat the trend of many of his colleagues. While you might be setting an out-of-office message and backing away from your keyboard as the winter holidays set in, many researchers in academia can be found working straight through the season. Scientists based in the United States are, in fact, the third most likely to work during holidays, behind only their counterparts in Belgium and Japan, according to a study published Thursday in BMJ.
The study — aiming to quantify some of the overwork and burnout experienced by researchers in the sciences — examined nearly 50,000 manuscript submissions and more than 75,000 peer-review submissions to BMJ and its sister journal, BMJ Open. More than a tenth of U.S.-based researchers who submitted manuscripts and peer review reports to journals did so during the holidays.
At the same time, researchers in China lead the world in working on weekends, where more than a fifth of academics submitted papers and peer-review reports, followed by those based in Japan, Italy and Spain. More than a tenth of researchers in the United States turned in studies on weekends, and more than 15 percent conducted peer review.
Scandinavian nations had the best work-life balance. Scientists in Sweden were least likely to work during holidays, and those in Norway generally kept their weekends free.
Adrian Barnett, a statistician and metascience researcher at Queensland University of Technology in Australia, who co-wrote the analysis, thought of conducting the analysis while submitting a paper on the weekend.
“This is a real marker of how hard I’m working,” he said.
The study has shortcomings. Among them, it only accounts for manuscript submissions and peer review, just two of many tasks on an academic’s plate, for instance.
Image source: Clancycross