Beer, happiness, and academic productivity

Are scientists who quaff ale less productive? Or are they just a lot more fun?

Published August 19, 2008 11:14PM (EDT)

Czech scientists who drink a lot of beer don't publish as many academic papers as their less inebriated colleagues.

This news comes to us by way of the Freakonomics blog, via a link from the Economist magazine's Free Exchange blog.

From Freakonomics:

The more beer scientists drink, the less likely they are to have a paper published or cited, according to a new study by Thomas Grim, an ornithologist at Palacky University, Czech Republic.

Grim surveyed the behavior of Czech scientists and found a correlation between amount of beer consumed and papers published.

Of course, correlation is not always causation -- Freakonomics quotes another ornithologist, Mike Webster, as suggesting that "Those with poor publication records are drowning their sorrows." But Free Exchange has another theory, "the most obvious conclusion: snooty journal editors are biased against beer drinkers."

Don't ask me about this suspicious profusion of ornithologists. I have no good answer. But I do have my own theory about the dreaded Sierra Nevada Pale Ale/slacker Bermuda Triangle. As a beer-drinking cyclist, I have come to terms with the truth that I will never enjoy six-pack abs-style wiry fitness as long as I keeping popping the caps off those brews.

But I am content.

So I wonder, did Professor Grim compare the happiness of the Czech scientists who didn't publish as often with the moods of their presumably more workaholic colleagues? Could it be that these relatively more imbibing academics simply know how to live?

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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