Today at ScienceBlogs there are a few posts of interest to science writers:
The Daily Transcript’s post, History and analysis of scientific publishing, comments on a interesting book with an overly long title, In Oldenburg’s Long Shadow: Librarians, Research Scientists, Publishers, and the Control of Scientific Publishing.
Recent posts to Adventures in Ethics and Science discuss science writing.
- Why does Medawar hate the scientific paper?
- Clarity and obfuscation in scientific papers.
- Does thinking like a scientist lead to bad science writing?
That first post refers to an old paper with an inflammatory title:
- P. B. Medawar, Is the scientific paper fraudulent? Yes; it misrepresents scientific thought, Saturday Review, 1 August 1964, pp. 42-43.
The analysis of Medawar’s paper involves some fun philosophy of science – mostly Hemple and Popper on induction and inductivism. Medawar makes a great deal of the way scientific papers represent orthodox norms about scientific thinking, but I doubt researchers think scientific papers are supposed to convey norms of scientific deliberation. Still, I can’t help but think that papers representing scientific thinking would be a lot more fun to read, if only because they would break away from the structure involving:
My suspicion is that scientists use this as a crutch, like high school (and university) students who cling to the dreaded 5 paragraph essay because it gives direction without requiring too much thought.