A fascinating study from Oikos: The Journal of Ecology finds that research output and number of citations (aggregate and per-paper) are inversely correlated with per-capita beer consumption. That is, where beer consumption rises, research productivity falls, as measured by papers published and subsequent citations. Coverage in the New York Times seems to miss the population aspect of the study, tying the results strongly to the practices of the scientists themselves. But it seems the authors found a population correlation, not a personal correlation. Basically, “increasing per capita beer consumption is associated with lower numbers of papers, total citations, and citations per paper.”
While the authors found a correlation on a population level, they didn’t find causation. So, does the fact that everyone around you is drinking beer lead to less scientific research that is also of a lower quality? Or, does struggling to produce science that is judged to be lower-quality make people give up and drink beer?