Thought for the month

“There is nothing noble in being superior to some other man. The true nobility is in being superior to your previous self.” Probably W.L. Sheldon, US lecturer on ethics (1858 – 1907) rather than Ernest Hemingway.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

The clarity of youth?

Congratulations to Biology Letters for publishing a scientific paper by a group of eight year olds about bumble-bees. In my undergraduate days I remember reading a collection of classic scientific papers written by Rutherford, Stoney, Thomson and the like. It struck me then, as now, that their papers were perfectly understandable and therefore accessible to most readers. Could the same be said of today's leading edge publications? I certainly struggle with many publications and question who is the intended readership nowadays? Perhaps journal editors should follow the lead from Biology letters and ensure that whilst the paper is not "dumbed down" the ideas are clearly explained and are open to more people? In extremis I am attracted to the Groucho Marx school of testing comprehensibility: "A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five"

The full bumble-bee paper is available via this link.

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