In this time of accountability and assessment, are academics working harder than they did before? And how might we tell? James Hartley reviews the literature and argues that while the data on this issue remain inconclusive, new technology may be responsible for distributing their efforts in more visible and differentiated ways.
In this time of accountability and assessment, are academics working harder than they did before? And how might we tell? Recent authors have shown how submission rates to journals have increased at the weekends, but survey and questionnaire data about work-loads have shown few changes in work-load over the years.
Submitting papers for publication at the weekends and national holidays.
Ladle, Malhado and Todd (2007) reported that the number of submissions to academic science journals on Christmas Day increased by 600% between 1996 and 2006. Guillaume Cabanac and I have just reported what we found when we examined the publication histories for 1,533 papers published in the Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology (JASIST) between 2001 and 2012. Here the proportion of submissions and re-submissions made at the weekend had increased from 3% in 2002 to 20% in 2012.
Critics of these papers have been quick to point out that they have a Western bias (e.g., see Magnone, 2013). Not all countries celebrate Christmas Day and the date for the start of the year varies in different countries. Wang et al. (2012) showed that Chinese researchers worked just as hard at weekends as they did during weekdays, and Wang et al. (2013) reminded us that different countries have different daily work patterns. In China, for example, people work for three periods during the day – morning, afternoon and evening – whereas scholars in the UK and the US normally work for two – morning and afternoon. Wang et al., (2013) also reported that Indian scientists tend to download more papers on weekends than on weekdays. Friday is the legal weekend in Iran and Thursday afternoons are often regarded as part of the weekend too.