A non-scientist's guide to reading scientific papers

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/06/26/intro-not-abstract.html


Seems like solid advice, but I am inclined to believe that the parallel efforts to help and encourage scientists and scientific publications to learn how to communicate their findings to the general public will bear more fruit. Just based on the fact that those folks are more invested in their work, and, comparing how many lay people there are vs. scientists, there are fewer of them in need of training, by orders of magnitude…

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Yes and no. I agree that the scientific community should do more in the way of explaining research to be digested by the general public. But there’s no negative to the public also finding tools to understand science.

Might actually help filter out some of the garbage startup journals that (ahem) certain pharma companies are sock-puppeting.

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Scientists communicating their findings to the public is good, but I’m not really sure journals should bother so much with it. Having laypeople read primary articles is great, but the main audience for journals will be scientists in the field, who require efficiency of information more than readability.

That being said, I’m not sure if we really want scientists being the one helping the public understand their work by default. Some of them are good at it, or could learn to be good at it, but there’s plenty of people doing valuable research who are unlikely to be good at explaining their work to the public, or don’t really want to bother explaining their work to the public, because it’s time they could spend doing more work. What we really need is some kind of incentive for media outlets to actually do a good job reporting science, proper intermediaries who can both understand the science well enough to report it, and are good enough at reporting to make it readable and interesting for the public. But you get more clicks by badly interpreting studies to fit clickbait headlines better, so… I’m not sure how to make that happen.


But when will somebody write A Scientist’s Guide to Reading Non-Scientific Papers?


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