Archive for September 21st, 2010


The Climate for Beer

September 21, 2010

It has come to my attention that “the world’s most highly cited ecologists and environmental scientists typically consume more than double the amount imbibed by the general population.”

Come again? That’s a pretty startling finding, if true.

The results reveal that consumption for this group averages around 7 alcoholic beverages per week, about 2.5 drinks over the weekly consumption of the average American. Though a fifth of the group does not drink, more than half consume 10 or more alcoholic beverages a week, 20% consume 12 or more and 10% consumer 21 or more. The largest consumer downed 31 per week.

I suppose there are several reasons why this might be so. For one, it might just be the case that these dudes get out of the house more often than the average couch potato. Better to get work done over beer than to get it done over Dexter.

For another, it could also be the case that these folks have a far better sense than the average joe of what’s worth a person’s time. Beer is definitely worth a person’s time, but I wouldn’t expect uneducated corn eaters to know this. They likely spend their weekends soberly watching Nascar and going to church.

For a third, it’s conceivable that these environmental scientists just live in really fancy places, like Colorado and California, where beer flows like water and microbreweries spring up like mushrooms.

Just a guess, of course.

Here’s the abstract of the article:

In science, a relatively small pool of researchers garners a disproportionally large number of citations. Still, very little is known about the social characteristics of highly cited scientists. This is unfortunate as these researchers wield a disproportional impact on their fields, and the study of highly cited scientists can enhance our understanding of the conditions which foster highly cited work, the systematic social inequalities which exist in science, and scientific careers more generally. This study provides information on this understudied subject by examining the social characteristics and opinions of the 0.1% most cited environmental scientists and ecologists. Overall, the social characteristics of these researchers tend to reflect broader patterns of inequality in the global scientific community. However, while the social characteristics of these researchers mirror those of other scientific elites in important ways, they differ in others, revealing findings which are both novel and surprising, perhaps indicating multiple pathways to becoming highly cited.

And here’s the relevant passage:

Our findings regarding alcohol consumption are surprising. Though a fifth of the groupdoes not drink, most drink more than Americans do generally. Furthermore, greater than54% consume 10 or more alcoholic beverages a week, 20% consume 12 or more drinks perweek, and 10% consume 21 or more drinks per week. Though national differences indrinking habits make direct comparisons between these groups difficult, the fact that oursample is both much more productive and much more highly cited, and drinks three timesmore alcohol than the less productive, less frequently cited group used in Grim’s comparison(i.e. Moravians) does give rise to pause, suggesting the need for more and betterinformation before a firm link between alcohol consumption and scientific accomplishmentcan be established. Certainly much more attention needs to be paid to possible intermittingvariables which may make this relationship appear stronger than it is in fact, particularlygiven evidence indicating the opposite relationship between beer consumption, scientificproductivity, and scientific quality at national levels (Lortie 2009).