Just because a scientific paper sounds authoritative, it doesn’t mean we should always take what’s published in journals as gospel. For example, here’s what scientists might really mean when they pontificate:
“It has long been known” . . . [I didn’t look up the original reference]
“A definite trend is evident” . . . [These data are practically meaningless]
“Of great theoretical and practical importance” . . . [Interesting to me]
“While it has not been possible to provide definite answers to these questions” . . . [An unsuccessful experiment but I still have to get it published]
“Three of the samples were chosen for detailed study” . . . [The results of the others didn’t make any sense]
“Typical results are shown” . . . [The best results are shown]
“These results will be shown in a subsequent report” . . . [I might get around to this sometime if I’m pushed]
“The most reliable results are those obtained by Jones” . . . [He was my graduate assistant]
“It is believed that” . . . [I think]
“It is generally believed that” . . . [A couple of other guys think so, too]
“It is clear that much additional work will be required before a complete understanding occurs” . . . [I don’t understand it]
“Correct within an order of magnitude” . . . [Wrong]
“It is hoped that this study will stimulate further investigations in this field” . . . [This is a lousy paper, but so are all the others on this miserable topic.]
“Thanks are due to Joe Blotz for assistance with the experiment and to George Frink for valuable assistance” . . . [Blotz did the work and Frink explained to me what it meant]
“A careful analysis of obtainable data” . . . [Three pages of notes were obliterated when I knocked over a glass of beer]
“It is clear that much additional work will be required before a complete understanding of this phenomenon occurs”… [I don’t understand it]
“After additional study by my colleagues”… [ They don’t understand it either]
“It is hoped that this study will stimulate further investigation in this field”… [I quit!]
Source – “Eureka: A book of scientific anecdotes” by Adrian Berry (with thanks to loyal Ethical Nag reader Cave76 for the hat tip)
This is a good one too. “More research is needed” meaning – I want more funding
So THAT’S what that means . . .
These are hilarious. True too, but nonetheless a riot to read.
Thank you to you both!
It helps to have a guide like this to translate, right?
This sounds a little bit old fashioned. Authors are more cynical nowadays. They tend to blatantly lie, conclude their study shows this or that (when actually it doesn’t ) etc.
Speaking of cynical . . . 😉
I think it is hilarious. I will using this post as a reference from now on, whenever I read “science-speak”.
Thanks for the giggles!
You’re welcome – it is pretty hilarious, isn’t it?
I’ve just completed a subject called critical research skills and wonder if my lecturer would have appreciated it if I used this interpretation… very funny!