On the alleged correlation between beer consumption and academic productivity.

Here’s the link to the paper in Oikos.

Before we get into philosophical discussions, however, let’s look at what they actually showed.

Alleged paper/beer consumption correlation

The first thing to notice is that this analysis is over the range of 1-6 liters/capita/year. That’s 1 pint every 6 months up to once a month. Now, I don’t know any Czech ornithologists personally, but I do know several Germans, some Polish, and a couple Hungarians. Their spread of beer consumption rates among them is more like 1-6 liters/capita/week. Therefore, unless Czech ornithologists have a significantly different consumption from the regional average, one must assume sampling error is present among such a rarefied population. When you look at it, and I know this is what passes for great results among ecologists, but the correlation really ain’t all that great, is it?

Now, as we all know but often forget, mere correlation doesn’t imply causation, so it could be just as likely that low productivity causes beer drinking or that some third factor causes both low productivity and beer drinking. What could that putative third factor be? Could it be that people who tend to…ahhh…misrepresent themselves tend to have higher publication rates (until peer-review catches up with them, of course), and would also, on this near-teetotaler end of the drinking scale, tend to under-report their consumption? So all they’ve really done here is show that people who lie on surveys get more publications!

To actually make one serious comment, let me say that it does make sense that someone who has no life at all will spend more time in the lab, but since 99.9% of all researchers worldwide already fall off the right side of the chart, how useful is this information?

2collab: A review, kinda.

Via Deepak, I hear of Elsevier’s new social bookmarking effort. Bookmarking services are great because they remove the drudgery out of maintaining a list of references or doing a literature review when writing a paper or proposal. 2collab is particularly nice because not only does it show you the references cited by the bookmarked paper, but it shows you papers citing the bookmarked article as well, making it as easy to go forwards as backwards in your literature review. It also shows you else is bookmarking your papers and commenting upon them, which given a large enough user base, can serve as an indicator of popularity/impact of a paper. Surprisingly(for a product from Elsevier), it’s open, free, supports import and export, and there’s going to be a public API.
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