As we approach the end of 2023 and the holiday season draws near, plans for this festive time are likely in place. However, it’s worth considering the impact of these holidays on the academic ecosystem, where the relentless pursuit of publications, encapsulated by the phrase “Publish or Perish,” has long been a cultural norm. This ethos emphasizes the continuous scholarly output for career advancement, tenure, and institutional prestige, intensifying during the festive season.

The stress and burnout induced by the “Publish or Perish” culture are compounded during the festive season. The expectation to meet publication quotas amid holiday festivities adds an extra layer of pressure. Researchers often find themselves entangled in a web of deadlines, exacerbating the stress and anxiety associated with constant publication.

AI generated image of a student working hard at a desk amidst a family holiday celebration
AI generated image: dalle3 on ChatGPT

AI generated image: dalle3 on ChatGPT

The holidays, intended for joy and connection, can paradoxically become a source of heightened tension for academics grappling with the dual demands of personal and professional obligations. The toll on mental health also becomes more pronounced during this period, as scholars navigate the complexities of maintaining productivity while also cherishing the spirit of the holidays.

Numerous researchers in academia continue working throughout the season. In fact, a study published in BMJreveals that scientists in the United States rank as the third most likely to work during holidays, surpassed only by their counterparts in Belgium and Japan.

Amid these challenges emerges a compelling question: Can academia afford a reprieve from the relentless demands of “Publish or Perish,” particularly during the holiday season? The holidays, traditionally a time for rest and rejuvenation, provide a unique opportunity to challenge prevailing norms and consider whether a temporary hiatus from constant publication pressure is not only feasible but also beneficial.

For some academics, the holidays can be a lonely period, especially if they find themselves far from home while pursuing their studies, such as those undertaking PhD programs in foreign countries. How can the academic community provide support to alleviate their feelings of isolation and enhance their well-being during this season?

Moreover, those engaged in collaborative research projects may be affected by the holiday period. It becomes crucial to explore ways to support these researchers in managing their collaborations effectively, ensuring that research and publication plans remain on track despite the holiday season.

How do we strike a balance between allowing academics the rest they need and maintaining the robustness of the academic ecosystem during the holiday season?

The Academic Calendar and the Holiday Period Stressors

As the holiday season approaches, many academic institutions undergo modifications to their schedules. Universities and academic libraries often operate on reduced hours, leading to disruptions in research and publication workflows. Deadlines for grant applications, paper submissions, and research project milestones may coincide with holidays, creating challenges for both researchers and publishers. The modified schedules can also impact the timely peer review process, essential for maintaining the quality of academic publications.

Academic professionals face a unique set of stressors during this time. For students, final exams, term papers, and dissertation deadlines may converge with holiday festivities, creating a delicate balancing act between academic responsibilities and personal celebrations. Faculty members may encounter stress as they juggle grading, advising, and finalizing research projects while participating in holiday-related events and family obligations. Researchers, too, find themselves navigating the demands of ongoing projects alongside the desire for a well-deserved break.

The cumulative impact of holiday stress on the mental health and work-life balance of academics is substantial. The relentless pursuit of academic success and constant publication, coupled with societal expectations associated with the festive season, takes a toll on scholars. Mental health is particularly vulnerable, as the pressure to excel academically clashes with the desire for a meaningful and enjoyable holiday experience. The struggle to compartmentalize work-related stressors from personal celebrations often results in heightened anxiety, burnout, and a sense of inadequacy.

Recognizing these stressors is crucial, allowing academic institutions to implement strategies supporting the well-being of their community members during the holiday season.

Holistic Strategies for Navigating the Academic Challenges of the Holiday Season

How can academic institutions proactively address the distinct challenges presented by the holiday season within the academic ecosystem? Consider implementing flexible deadlines, not only for authors working on research papers but also for reviewers and, significantly, for students. How might adjustments in submission dates and review timelines assist individuals in maintaining a harmonious balance between academic responsibilities and personal commitments during this festive period?

Additionally, how can academic communities foster an environment where students, researchers, and faculty feel comfortable discussing their holiday-related needs without the fear of negative consequences? What strategies can be implemented to ensure a supportive atmosphere, enabling individuals to openly express challenges and collaboratively find solutions that meet everyone’s needs?

Would it help if institutions could explore alternative methods for evaluating academic performance beyond a strict focus on publication metrics? This involves recognizing and rewarding a broader range of contributions, such as impactful teaching, mentorship, and collaborative endeavors.

For academics away from home during the holidays, how might academic institutions organize networking events and virtual celebrations at the year’s end? In what ways can these gatherings provide opportunities for individuals to connect, share experiences, and build a sense of community, thereby mitigating any feelings of isolation during this festive time?

Recognizing the limitations of physical access, how can academic libraries play a crucial role by extending digital access to their resources during the holiday season? What steps can be taken to ensure seamless online access to research materials, supporting students and researchers in their academic pursuits even when they cannot physically visit the library?

In enhancing support, what measures can libraries take, such as offering remote assistance and support services, including virtual reference desks, online chat support, and aid with accessing e-resources? How can the assurance of readily available academic support, regardless of physical presence, address the needs of the academic community during the holiday season?

Furthermore, how might academic libraries promote their physical spaces as inviting environments for relaxation and study during the holidays? What initiatives can be implemented to enable libraries to cater to the diverse preferences of students and researchers, especially those far from home?

Academic institutions can consider exploring initiatives similar to The International House of Chicago’s Thanksgiving Homestay Program. This program has provided countless international students with the opportunity to partake in the uniquely American tradition of Thanksgiving. By connecting students with host families in rural communities in southern and western Illinois, the program facilitates cultural exchange and fosters a sense of community. Initiatives like this can greatly enhance the experiences of international students, offering them a chance to immerse themselves in local traditions and build meaningful connections with host families.

Introducing a holiday hiatus may encounter resistance rooted in the deeply ingrained “Publish or Perish” culture. Scholars and institutions may be resistant to deviating from established norms due to concerns about perceived declines in productivity. To foster acceptance, it is imperative to engage in open and transparent dialogue. Emphasizing the positive impact on mental health, creativity, and overall well-being can help shift perspectives.

Additionally, institutions can play a crucial role by providing support mechanisms for academics during the holiday season. This includes recognizing the unique challenges faced by researchers who are away from home, particularly during festive periods. By addressing the potential resistance and actively promoting the benefits of a holiday hiatus, academia can pave the way for a more supportive and inclusive culture.

Focusing on the loneliness experienced by researchers who are away from home during the holidays is paramount. These individuals often bear the emotional load of not participating in local festivities, and the pressure to maintain regular work outputs can exacerbate feelings of isolation. Instituting a holiday hiatus not only acknowledges the challenges faced by these researchers but also provides them with a dedicated period for self-care, reflection, and potential connection with peers facing similar situations.

To foster acceptance, institutions can implement initiatives such as virtual holiday gatherings, networking events, or support groups specifically tailored to researchers who may feel isolated during the festive season.

The Role of Mentorship and Leadership

Mentors and leaders play a crucial role in cultivating a healthy work culture by actively encouraging work-life balance. They recognize the significance of personal time and promote breaks when needed, setting an example that prioritizes well-being and fosters a culture valuing both professional and personal fulfilment. Additionally, academic leaders can advocate for institutional policies supporting well-being, such as the implementation of a holiday hiatus, contributing to an environment that prioritizes mental health and overall satisfaction. Mentors provide valuable guidance on effective time management, aiding researchers in finding a balance between work and personal life, including strategies to minimize stress during peak academic periods. Recognizing the unique challenges faced by researchers away from home, mentors and leaders can foster inclusivity by creating spaces for open discussions about the emotional toll during holidays and implementing initiatives that offer support and connection. Leading by example, impactful leaders should embrace a balanced approach to work, demonstrating the importance of self-care and inspiring those under their guidance to prioritize their well-being.

Embracing Holistic Excellence in Academia

While critics may express concerns about the potential decline in academic productivity during a holiday hiatus, it is time for academia to lead a paradigm shift. The traditional belief that continuous output is the sole indicator of success needs to be challenged. The questions surrounding the rigor and quality of research during a holiday break underscore the necessity to strike a balance between flexibility and maintaining high academic standards. Holistic success in research extends beyond the numerical count of publications. It encompasses the mental and emotional well-being of academics. As we contemplate a pause during the holiday season, we must ask ourselves: Isn’t the researcher’s overall well-being as crucial as the research itself? The academic community must recognize that nurturing the individual behind the research is an investment in sustained excellence.

Let the year 2024 be a call to redefine success in academia, to acknowledge that a researcher’s vitality is intricately linked to the quality and longevity of their contributions. The holiday hiatus is not just a break; it is an opportunity for transformation. By embracing a broader definition of success that values well-being alongside productivity, academia can pave the way for a healthier, more resilient, and ultimately more successful academic landscape. This isn’t just about taking a holiday break; it’s about fostering a culture that champions the whole researcher, recognizing that a healthy mind is the foundation of groundbreaking ideas. The questions and concerns raised are not roadblocks but opportunities for academia to evolve, ensuring that success is measured not just in publications but in the thriving well-being of those who drive innovation and knowledge forward.

Roohi Ghosh

Roohi Ghosh

Roohi Ghosh is the ambassador for researcher success at Cactus Communications (CACTUS). She is passionate about advocating for researchers and amplifying their voices on a global stage.


1 Thought on "Can Academia Afford a Holiday Hiatus from Publish or Perish?"

Athough almost ( if not the huge majority) of countries celebrate the holidays season , what about people living in surrounding where the break from work is not as important as in Westen world institutions ? Wouldn’t they feel some kind of brake in their momentum ? Is their “holidays” taken into account ? We all know that Global North criteria are the most prevalent but other parts of the world’s agenda should also be as important .Happy Holidays for everybody and may peace reign in all parts of the world

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