Anyone who claims that reading journal articles is exciting is probably fibbing. It’s not that the research itself is boring, but rather the way that it is communicated. Part of my brain is eager to understand the method and the result, and the other part is yawning and polishing some neurons. So, why not just change the writing style of journals to be more like science news?
We are unfortunately stuck like a blueberry in a surprising pancake. On the one hand, the style of a journal is a reflection of the authors in it. Researchers adopt a professional writing style to be viewed as professional themselves. On the syrupy side of this pancake, domain-specific jargon can limit the audience with which the research is shared. It follows, then, that some desire to maintain a reputation (either the journal or the researcher), flies against the goal of the publication process entirely, which is to disseminate the findings to as many individuals as possible. However, given the stringent access rules and ridiculous costs to wheedle down the market to only the biggest of research institutions, I’m guessing that journals don’t mind the second point so much. They leave it to the science media to translate cool findings to the rest of the world! And thus, we are stuck in a static, black box-reality where (most) journals are professional, and dry.
This is exactly the conundrum that went through my mind late one evening last week, and what I did next is prime evidence for the direct relationship between tiredness and silly thinking. You are probably anticipating some solution to the problem stated above, but unfortunately what I’m about to share is completely useless. I started to replace random words with much better choices (why, they didn’t test their experimental manipulation with a control group, they used a flock of angry penguins!), and was a little bit giddy and pleased with my silly result. I then decided that a good use of my time would be to create Pubmed Abstract… Mad Libs! And so, I did :o)
This little page queries Pubmed for an abstract based on a search term,
It then parses the abstract to determine parts of speech, and randomly selects words for you to fill in:
Then, you get to see your silly creation, with words in red. That’s pretty much it :o)
As you can see, completely useless, other than maybe some practice for me using Pubmed’s API. I should probably do some real work now, hehe :)