A lot of skills have been introduced last week on Communicating Science like eye contact, body language, observation, focus etc. As scientific papers is a significant portion of communication between experts and a wider population, it would be interesting to also have some discussion on some of the skills that commonly applicable in writing our research papers.
I found this blog “Science: The language of miscommunication” very helpful. It was wrote by an Ecology professor in Australia. I’m citing a table directly below as some examples of how some scientific jargon can confuse the general public.
Table 1. Terms that have different meanings for scientists and the public
Scientific term Public meaning Better choice enhance improve intensify, increase aerosol spray can tiny atmospheric particle positive trend good trend upward trend positive feedback good response, praise vicious cycle, self-reinforcing cycle theory hunch, speculation scientific understanding uncertainty ignorance range error mistake, wrong, incorrect difference from exact true number bias distortion, political motive offset from an observation sign indication, astrological sign plus or minus sign values ethics, monetary value numbers, quantity manipulation illicit tampering scientific data processing scheme devious plot systematic plan anomaly abnormal occurrence change from long-term average
When I was writing an article on one of my research projects last year, I used a lot of “positive correlations” on my first draft, which I though was straight forward. Then my advisor suggested me to use “an increase of XX correlates with an increase of XX” instead of “positive correlations”. I don’t quite understanding why at that time. Now it seems more reasonable to me. While some scientific jargon is indispensible as part of the technical terminology to a discipline, some can be really confusing and needlessly difficult to the general public, which should be avoided.