In this week's Nature, Heidi Ledford takes a look at what she calls "the 24/7 lab," one that is "renowned for [its] intense work ethic and long hours." In her article, Ledford discusses the types of researchers "who are drawn to these environments," details "what it is really like to work there," and considers "whether long hours lead to more or better science." Overall, Ledford says that researchers who thrive in such environments are generally attracted to the autonomy and freedom they afford. While some, like the University of Dundee's Philip Cohen — who tells Nature he fears that trainees are "losing all the fun in life if they don't really push themselves to the limit" — feel as though more hours logged in the lab leads to more results, not everyone agrees. MIT's Stephen Buchwald urges his lab members "to take a month's holiday every year, and not to think about work when they're gone," Ledford says. Plus, she adds, the Buchwald lab's publication records show that taking a break rarely dampens researchers' productivity.
In a response to this article, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center's Julie Overbaugh says that while "striking a balance between work, family, friends, and leisure is often hard in science … there must be room for those who want this balance, otherwise creative people with the potential to make significant contributions to scientific discovery will be excluded." Writing to Nature, Overbaugh says she considers herself "fortunate to work at an institution where the focus is on our contributions, not our hours."