By Nick

Following on from my blog post a couple of weeks ago, I’ve come across some interesting data which reveals the working habits of scientists across the globe. This study (reported on here) by a Chinese research groups studied the rates of paper downloads from a major journal publisher (Springer) at various times during the day throughout the week. The result is an interesting insight into cultural differences between the work-ethics of different nations.

Working habits of the top paper downloading nations
Working habits of the top paper downloading nations

The three groups are USA, China and Germany (which here we will take as the model for working habits in continental Europe*, and based on my experience, non American anglophone countries: the UK and Australia). These are the three top paper downloading nations accounting for about 54% of all paper downloads. The UK is 4th and Australia 7th.

As common knowledge predicts: It really does looks like the Americans like to work nights having the flattest graph. The Americans start later in the morning than the Europeans and Chinese and downloads tail off earlier in the afternoons. Their working day is shorter but they don’t seem to take lunch-breaks.

The Chinese have a much longer working day, going until 11:00pm, but they all go home to sleep, and they all stop when it comes to meals. Additionally the Chinese seem to work much more at weekends than other countries, with the gap between weekdays and weekends much smaller.

Meanwhile, the Germans start nice and early, and do have a noticeable lunch-break. There is a gradual decline through the afternoon rather than sudden drop-off.

Its a great data set, which helps replace stereotypes with facts (always a good thing). However, there is still a lot of after-hours working going on. A fact of the scientific life? Maybe so, but perhaps we should work a little harder at changing these preconceptions. Long hours will harm health, both physically and mentally, which will only lead to poorer quality science.

You can get the paper for free (hooray) here.

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* insert your own joke about French 3-hour lunch-breaks here.