High on clue sniffing

April 30, 2004

I was interested to read about the new illness - research assessment exercise-related academic encephalopathy (The Diary, April 23).

I thought you would like to know about a possible side-effect from those taking part in the RAE (namely "writing addiction").

Those who have an "ink problem" undertake ritualistic behaviour and experience intense "highs" on the acceptance of an RAE-rated article or seeing the article finally in print. Tolerance occurs quickly, with writers having to write longer and longer articles or books to get intense highs (when the researcher is well and truly "booked").

Irritability and withdrawal effects are experienced when they: (a) get an article rejected; (b) go more than a few weeks without getting anything published; (c) run out of ideas to write about (many writers fear developing a "think problem" and some may even resort to "clue sniffing" for inspiration); or (d) are on holiday without access to a PC.

This last problem can sometimes be avoided by carrying a writing implement.

Anecdotal evidence suggests writing addicts show cross-tolerance to pencils and pens but not to crayons.

Mark Griffiths
Professor of gambling studies
International Gaming Research Unit
Nottingham Trent University

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