Author Topic: Making Science Papers Accessible to the Layman: Who can Help?  (Read 6886 times)

Alice

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Making Science Papers Accessible to the Layman: Who can Help?
« on: September 08, 2009, 11:12:18 pm »
I'm sure I'm not the only person who finds scientific journalese a bit of a foreign language! The main purpose of this library is to make all the papers accessible to discuss - so I'd like to invite anyone who undertands more about them to do a little translating.

I'd love to create a thread like the Book Review section with any of the following:

:) Tips on how to go through a paper;
:) A summary of any of the papers;
:) A "translation" of any paper or part of a paper;
:) Anything else like that! ;D

In the individual paper threads, I shall provide links to any of these that help our understanding. :)

The Zookeepers have been doing a great job of blogging about the processes of writing a paper and summarising the results. I'd also be really grateful if anyone could help me make a collection of these posts. I'll put them into the special thread I'm hoping to create, plus in the individual paper threads where appropriate.

In the meantime, please discuss :) :)

GNB 080

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Re: Making Science Papers Accessible to the Layman: Who can Help?
« Reply #1 on: September 09, 2009, 12:25:38 am »
I think it's a great idea.

The more widely understood the actual papers, the better.

echo-lily-mai

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Re: Making Science Papers Accessible to the Layman: Who can Help?
« Reply #2 on: September 10, 2009, 09:25:24 am »
Alice i’m a bit worried about putting a book back on the wrong shelf in our nice new library, if this post needs moving please let me know.  ::)

I found these blogs really insightful. A general look at paper writing and publishing.  :)


“Generally, although several people may contribute to a scientific paper, the main business of writing the text and putting together the figures is done by one person, the lead author”

can-you-feel-a-draft

“we’d like to describe to you what happens next. What’s scientific publishing all about? How does it work?”

what-happens-next-peer-review



Art does not reproduce the visible....  Paul Klee

Alice

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Re: Making Science Papers Accessible to the Layman: Who can Help?
« Reply #3 on: September 10, 2009, 03:35:01 pm »
Fantastic stuff, thanks Echo! ;D ;D

zutopian

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Re: Making Science Papers Accessible to the Layman: Who can Help?
« Reply #4 on: February 15, 2012, 01:04:50 pm »
I know, who can help!

Quote
Astrobites is a daily literature journal summarizing new astrophysical research posted to astroph. Astrobites is written by graduate students for undergraduates.
http://astrobites.com/

Alice

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Re: Making Science Papers Accessible to the Layman: Who can Help?
« Reply #5 on: April 23, 2012, 12:08:24 am »
I know this is a bit of a quiet thread, but anyone trying to read or write science journals will probably appreciate this: how to write like a scientist. It's pretty depressing.

In my first year of university I lost marks for describing a major change to a coastline as a dramatic change. "Dramatic" was not a scientific word. I agree with that now (I had never had occasion to think of such a thing at the time and was quite shocked!); on the other hand, I think to say "lone" is an unscientific word, and the author should have used "only" for about the seventh time, is taking things a bit too far.

I do understand why there has to be a certain dryness in the journals - so as to detach the human, to minimise our influence, to let the facts speak by themselves without interference. But it does make it jolly hard work!

zookeeperKevin

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Re: Making Science Papers Accessible to the Layman: Who can Help?
« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2012, 11:26:37 pm »
Scientific writing can indeed be a bit dry, though sometimes people do sneak in some humour.

Alice

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Re: Making Science Papers Accessible to the Layman: Who can Help?
« Reply #7 on: April 26, 2012, 12:42:09 am »
Says the chap who had no involvement at all in getting New Scientist to mention this paper ;D ;D ;D ;D

Invader_Xan

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Re: Making Science Papers Accessible to the Layman: Who can Help?
« Reply #8 on: April 30, 2012, 01:07:56 am »
I'm sure I'm not the only person who finds scientific journalese a bit of a foreign language!

Seriously, back when I'd just started on a MRes, I found a huge number of scientific journal papers to be largely unintelligible. Sometimes it was a lack of understanding on my part. Sometimes it wasn't helped by the authors clearly not having English as their first language. And sometimes... Sometimes, things are just badly written. If a point is so obfuscated that you have to re-read a paragraph three times before you understand what they're talking about, then the writing may be leaving something to be desired. Just like novels or newspapers, there are always good writers and bad writers.

And while things may be awfully dry a lot of the time, they aren't always. I refer you to Cox (2005), who begins his paper The Three-Phase Interstellar Medium Revisited with this paragraph:
Quote
The interstellar medium is a fascinating place to spend one’s life. There is ample beauty in the images, abundant challenge in the observations, good company in the fellow travelers, and a high sense of importance attached to the work as a foundation for understanding how galaxies work, along with the ways they may have influenced one another and the intergalactic medium. There is also sufficient uncertainty about what is happening that it presents a huge canvas for the joyous exercise of imagination.
But I suppose the higher an academic rank you achieve, the less constraint you may feel in your writing -- and they don't let just anyone publish papers for Annual Review of Astronomy & Astrophysics.


Anyway, I was wondering if you'd ever heard of a site called researchblogging.org? The premise is simple -- science bloggers take papers, go over them, and explain/comment on what they're about. There are a few astronomy bloggers who participate there too. So if there's a paper anyone would particularly like some help in translating, perhaps it might be an idea to find a tame blogger to lend a hand...

(Hint: I'm most easily persuaded with ice cream or cupcakes)
:P
« Last Edit: April 30, 2012, 01:21:45 am by Invader_Xan »

Alice

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Re: Making Science Papers Accessible to the Layman: Who can Help?
« Reply #9 on: April 30, 2012, 02:30:04 pm »
WOW. I hadn't heard of researchblogging, no! It looks like precisely what I am after. This is brilliant! ;D ;D ;D ;D

Invader_Xan

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Re: Making Science Papers Accessible to the Layman: Who can Help?
« Reply #10 on: April 30, 2012, 04:01:45 pm »
Glad I could help!  ;D