Scientists as workaholics…

In the article below, Wired reports on a study of when researchers download articles (middle of the night? Yep! Weekends? Yep!) and concludes that scientists are workaholics. The article also opines that it is the intense competition and stress of the scientists’ jobs that cause them to engage in such obviously self-destructive behavior. I think they could have the causal mechanism wrong here. I believe many researchers work at odd hours, at least in part, because they find it pleasurable — not because of external pressure. People end up in these fields (and successful in these fields) because studying something is what they like to do and are good at. Information technology just enables them to more liberally indulge in this rewarding (and rewarded) behavior.

I was scolded just last weekend for the fact that I almost never read fiction anymore. I was afraid to admit that I am often too busy on non-fiction endeavors — like  an internet scavenger hunt to figure out just why lobsters maintain telomerase activation throughout their lives, and may thus have a potential lifespan of…wait for it…FOREVER. That is seriously cool — how could a Grisham novel ever compete? But I might be biased because I like researching things, at any hour of the day. If you’re reading this, I bet you do too.


2 Comments on “Scientists as workaholics…”

  1. For those scholars that, as Melissa, have trouble finding motivation to read fiction, I highly suggest “Lucky Jim” written by Kingsley Amis (Kindle edition available).

  2. stevepostrel says:

    Reading accounts of successful scientists’ work lives, it’s pretty clear that it tends to be an all-consuming passion for most of them. Vocation and avocation are often hard to distinguish, especially when they are hot on the trail of either a) an elusive but exciting discovery or b) a clinching piece of evidence in some debate about which they are very exercised. The astronomers who waged the Hubble-constant wars (how old is the universe=how fast is the universe expanding=how big are the redshifts=how far away are the “standard candles”) seemed to have their entire identities tied up in the answers to these questions. (Of course, optical astronomers tend to work at night a lot, but I would be surprised if they “turned off” their obsession at night even when they weren’t observing.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s