Publishing bias out of the bottle

Tomáš Grim, an ornithologist at Palacky University in the notoriously linkurl:beer;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/25122/ besotted Czech Republic, came down with a bad case of mononucleosis in 1999. His illness prohibited him from drinking for about a year. Soon after he recovered, he began publishing papers in more high profile scientific journals, such as Proceedings of the Royal Society B and Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. Grim's new-found prolificacy on the heels

Mar 18, 2008
Elie Dolgin
Tomáš Grim, an ornithologist at Palacky University in the notoriously linkurl:beer;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/25122/ besotted Czech Republic, came down with a bad case of mononucleosis in 1999. His illness prohibited him from drinking for about a year. Soon after he recovered, he began publishing papers in more high profile scientific journals, such as Proceedings of the Royal Society B and Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. Grim's new-found prolificacy on the heels of his extended sobriety got him thinking about how guzzling linkurl:beer;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/22991/ affected the publishing habits of his fellow researchers. He surveyed the drinking habits and publication records of nearly all the avian ecologists and evolutionary biologists in the Czech Republic, which has the highest beer consumption rates of any country. He found that the number of papers published, the total number of citations received, and the average number of citations per paper all declined with increased beer consumption. And this linkurl:finding,;http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.2008.0030-1299.16551.x which was published online in February on the website of the journal Oikos, not only applied to binge drinkers — the trend was consistent both in the heavy-drinking western region of Bohemia, where researchers knocked back around 200 liters of beer per year, and the relatively teetotalling eastern Moravia region, where drinkers down less than 50 liters per year. "I didn't expect any patterns would be recognizable," Grim wrote in an Email. "So I was really surprised." In 2002, Grim surveyed the literature to see how Czech researchers fared on the international stage. To his surprise, he found that Czech ornithologists had published only 41 papers in non-Czech peer-reviewed journals over the previous two decades. He relayed this information to his colleague linkurl:Anders Moller;http://parasito-evolutive.snv.jussieu.fr/ of the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris, who, according to Grim, responded that it was "no surprise when [Czechs] drink so much beer." But Moller, a behavioral ecologist who prefers wine over beer, now has a more nuanced view of the paper's results. He thinks beer's negative effects are probably not just confined to the Czech Republic. Because drinking is both a social and sexual activity, he argues, like other social signals, "there are costs associated with the production of those particular signals." But not everyone is convinced that the hoppy malt beverage is to blame. "I don't think productivity is affected by beer consumption," said David Storch of Charles University in Prague. Storch, who completed the survey for Grim's study and said he drinks 5–6 beers per week, said the effect is probably due to "lifestyle in general," and doesn't plan to change his drinking habits. Even though he saw his own publication habits pick up on the heels of a year away from pilsners and ales, Grim doesn't have a personal vendetta against sudsy beverages. In fact, Grim said he now drinks about 150 liters of beer per year. But he does watch to see how much others are linkurl:drinking.;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/23069/ "Now I pay more attention to the drinking habits of scientists I meet," he wrote in an Email.