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Research Christmas 2019: Shiny Happy People

Working 9 to 5, not the way to make an academic living: observational analysis of manuscript and peer review submissions over time

BMJ 2019; 367 doi: (Published 19 December 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;367:l6460
  1. Adrian Barnett, statistician1,
  2. Inger Mewburn, research educator2,
  3. Sara Schroter, senior researcher3
  1. 1School of Public Health and Social Work, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia
  2. 2Australian National University, ANU College of Asia and the Pacific, Canberra, Australia
  3. 3BMJ, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to: A Barnett a.barnett{at} (or @aidybarnett on Twitter)
  • Accepted 6 November 2019


Objective To determine whether researchers are submitting manuscripts and peer reviews to BMJ journals out of hours and whether this has changed over time.

Design Observational study of research manuscripts and peer reviews submitted between 2012 and 2019 for which an author’s address could be geocoded.

Setting Online BMJ submission systems for two large general medical journals.

Main outcome measures Manuscript and peer review submissions on weekends, on national holidays, and by hour of day (to determine early mornings and late nights). Logistic regression was used to estimate the probability of manuscript and peer review submissions on weekends or holidays.

Results The analyses included more than 49 000 manuscript submissions and 76 000 peer reviews. Little change over time was seen in the average probability of manuscript or peer review submissions occurring on weekends or holidays. The levels of out of hours work were high, with average probabilities of 0.14 to 0.18 for work on the weekends and 0.08 to 0.13 for work on holidays compared with days in the same week. Clear and consistent differences were seen between countries. Chinese researchers most often worked at weekends and at midnight, whereas researchers in Scandinavian countries were among the most likely to submit during the week and the middle of the day.

Conclusion The differences between countries that are persistent over time show that a “culture of overwork” is a literal thing, not just a figure of speech.


  • Contributors: AGB had the original idea, did the analysis, and wrote the first draft of the article. SS and IM gave input into the study design, helped to interpret the results, and wrote sections of the paper. SS sourced the data. The corresponding author attests that all listed authors meet authorship criteria and that no others meeting the criteria have been omitted. AGB is the guarantor.

  • Funding: AGB receives fellowship funding from the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (1117784). The funder had no role in the study design, collection of data, writing, or decision to submit the paper for publication. The researchers are independent from the funders, and all authors had full access to all of the data (including statistical reports and tables) in the study and can take responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.

  • Competing interests: All authors have completed the ICMJE uniform disclosure form at (available on request from the corresponding author) and declare: no support from any organisation for the submitted work; AGB has received research grants from the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council; SS works for The BMJ; the authors have reviewed for and submitted articles to The BMJ and BMJ Open, often out of hours; no other relationships or activities that could appear to have influenced the submitted work..

  • Ethical approval: The study used routinely collected data that was non-identifiable, so ethics approval was not needed.

  • Data sharing: The data and statistical code are fully available at

  • Transparency declaration: The lead author (the manuscript’s guarantor) affirms that the manuscript is an honest, accurate, and transparent account of the study being reported; that no important aspects of the study have been omitted; and that any discrepancies from the study as originally planned (and, if relevant, registered) have been explained.

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