Jargon in Scientific Papers{0}

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.