And now, as the Pythons say, for something completely different. I realize that this is a bit peripheral to the mainsteam content of this blog but (as another famous person said), “I’m the decider”.
In our profession of science, probably like all others, there is perennial argument about what determines personal productivity, how you should measure it fairly, and so on. Various metrics have been devised, books have been written, probably blogs have been started about this. People have examined the role of gender, birth order, institution, culture, astrological sign (OK, I made that up), etc. But so far, to my knowledge, nobody has examined scientifically one potentially key factor: beer.
I am happy to say that this frontier has now been demolished, and the juggernaut of science has barrelled through, with the efforts of a Czech evolutionary ecologist by the name of . . . Grim. The study was conducted in – you guessed it — Bohemia. Dr. Grim surveyed all researchers studying the evolutionary and behavioral ecology of birds (this is his own discipline so presumably he had drained a few glasses himself with many of the subjects and felt comfortable probing into the minutiae of their drinking habits) in the Czech Republic who had published at least one paper in a peer-reviewed journal outside the Czech Republic in the last 20 years. He then inquired (delicately, one presumes) how many glasses or bottles of beer they drank per week. Finally, he obtained data on year of birth to control for effects of age on drinking frequency. The whole study was conducted twice, first in May 2002 and then again in 2006, with the same subjects where available.
The Grim finding (I’m sorry — that was inexcusable) was that the number of papers published, the total number of citations received, and the average number of citations per paper all declined significantly with quantity of beer consumed (see the graph at left). These results were consistent across both 2002 and 2006 data sets. And get this, you Bohemians:
“Generally, inhabitants of Bohemia (western region of the Czech Republic) are known to drink more beer than people from Moravia (eastern region of the country). This difference was confirmed for my sample of researchers: researchers from Bohemia drank significantly more beer per capita per year (median 200.0 litres) than those from Moravia (median 37.5 litres). Therefore I predicted lower measures of publication output for the former in comparison to latter group of researchers . . . Indeed, researchers from Bohemia published fewer papers per year, were less cited per year, and showed lower citation rate per paper per year.” (I have omitted the arcane statistical details)
To my mind, the message here is clear: ditch the beer and drink more wine!