Workloads: 9 to 5 is far from reality for scientists

Data show how much work conservation biologists do outside office hours

August 22, 2013

Researchers have long lamented that they are forced to do much of their work late at night or at weekends – and now they have the beginnings of an evidence base to support their claims.

A study has found that academics working in conservation biology submit more than a quarter of their journal papers late at night or at weekends, with Japanese, Chinese and Indian academics the most likely to toil outside normal working hours.

The study analysed the day and time for the online submission of 10,000 manuscripts and almost 15,000 reviews to the Elsevier journal Biological Conservation, correcting for time zones and different working weeks.

Worldwide the results show that scientists submit 16 per cent of manuscripts between 7pm and 7am, and 11 per cent of manuscripts and 12 per cent of reviews at weekends. Figures for the time of day for review submissions are not available.

According to Richard Primack, professor of biology at Boston University and one of the authors of “Are conservation biologists working too hard?”, an editorial in Biological Conservation, the biggest surprise was how working patterns differed across the world.

It’s always time for work

Including both weekend and night-time submissions, authors based in Japan, China and India submit about 40 per cent of their manuscripts outside regular work hours, while in countries including Belgium, Norway, Finland and South Africa, the figure is just 16 to 17 per cent. Czech and Polish biologists are the most likely to submit reviews at weekends ( per cent and 25 per cent, respectively).

Professor Primack said that anecdotal communication with scientists across the world backed up the results. Academics in India and China tended not to distinguish weekends from weekdays, he said, but in Belgium and Scandinavia there was a strong mentality that work should ideally be done only during office hours.

Compared with their peers, American and British scientists have average work habits, the study shows.

However, British scientists still submit 9 per cent of manuscripts and 14 per cent of reviews at weekends, and almost 13 per cent of manuscripts outside office hours.

The study – which was co-authored by Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz, associate professor in the School of Geography at the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, and Lian Pin Koh, of ETH Zurich – found that the tendency to submit outside normal working hours has been increasing at a rate of about 5 to 6 per cent a year since 2004, the point at which data on e-submissions became available.

The rise was likely down to increasing pressure to publish, as well as technology allowing around-the-clock activity, said Professor Primack. He added that universities should give more credit to the time academics spend submitting papers and grants and carrying out peer review.

The authors would now like to see whether similar working patterns apply outside conservation biology.

elizabeth.gibney@tsleducation.com

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

question marks PhD study

Selecting the right doctorate is crucial for success. Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman share top 10 tips on how to pick a PhD

Pencil lying on open diary

Requesting a log of daily activity means that trust between the institution and the scholar has broken down, says Toby Miller

India, UK, flag

Sir Keith Burnett reflects on what he learned about international students while in India with the UK prime minister

Application for graduate job
Universities producing the most employable graduates have been ranked by companies around the world in the Global University Employability Ranking 2016
Construction workers erecting barriers

Directly linking non-EU recruitment to award levels in teaching assessment has also been under consideration, sources suggest