Saturday, April 30, 2011

Science writing doesn't have to be boring writing

A brief article by Jo Marchant at the Guardian shows that scientific writing doesn't have to be dry and boring.

Writing scientific papers is an essential part of any scientist's job. They are the primary means by which scientists communicate their techniques and findings to other scientists, and they are increasingly becoming the primary metric by which the value of a scientist is measured. During my career, I've read probably thousands of published papers, reviewed about a hundred papers as part of the peer-review process, and written more than fifty papers of my own. But how many of them were written really well? Not many at all - and I include my own papers in this statement, some of which send even me to sleep.

Scientific writing does need to be as unambiguous of possible, and computational intelligence papers have the disadvantage of often requiring a fair amount of mathematics. But is it really that difficult to introduce more of a narrative to our papers? And would reviewers allow such papers to be published?

1 comment:

  1. Two kinds of narrative are missing from many papers: (1) An explanation of immediate context or the circumstances under which research has been done, which can be a paragraph about the author(s)placed in the margin of a paper, and (2) The acknowledgments section, which some publishers seem to regard as optional, rather than being an ethically necessary component of any research (exactly what acknowledgments to make should be decided by the authors, but for any paper to go without acknowledgments means that the readers have no access at all to the back story, or to other contributors to the work, living or dead) (if no living person has contributed to the author's thinking, then there must be some scholar in the past to whom the author can pay respects)


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