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50 misused words and phrases in science

The goal of this article is to promote clear thinking and clear writing among students and teachers of psychological science by curbing terminological misinformation and confusion. To this end, we present a provisional list of 50 commonly used terms in psychology, psychiatry, and allied fields that should be avoided, or at most used sparingly and with explicit caveats. We provide corrective information for students, instructors, and researchers regarding these terms,…

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Clarifying science “authorship”

Imagine that one of your colleagues or friends publishes a new book and mentions you on the cover as the co-author. Without letting you know. You walk into a bookstore and see “your” book. Would you feel honored or embarrassed? Would you consider it your book? Would you take the credit if people complimented you? Would you take the criticism if people said it was mediocre? This summer I discovered…

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Ten Simple Rules for the Care and Feeding of Scientific Data

Two pages (scan) from Galilei’s Sidereus Nuncius (“The Starry Messenger” or “The Herald of the Stars”), Venice, 1610 In the early 1600s, Galileo Galilei turned a telescope toward Jupiter. In his log book each night, he drew to-scale schematic diagrams of Jupiter and some oddly moving points of light near it. Galileo labeled each drawing with the date. Eventually he used his observations to conclude that the Earth orbits the…

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How to Bore Everyone with Science

Have you ever had a sneaking suspicion that, no matter how interesting you find your studies or results, others might be less than electrified by them? You’re probably right. Danish biologist Kaj Sand-Jensen argues that the culture of and expectations around scientific-paper writing can turn talented and interesting writers into dull ones, producing articles that—no matter how fascinating the topic—are deathly to read. Want to know what you’re doing right—er,…

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The Science and Art of Science Writing

Credit: Rodney Lochner I blame a rattlesnake for my career. Fifteen years ago, my brand-new college biology degree qualified me for a series of minimum-wage jobs looking for strange animals in strange places. The work was temporary, itinerant and, as soldiers say of war, alternately boring and excessively thrilling. But the scenery was unbeatable. During a stint with a university research project in the desert near Tucson, Ariz., I got…

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Alan Alda isn’t interested in your scientific mumbo jumbo

STONY BROOK, N.Y. (AP) — Among the procedures Army surgeon Hawkeye Pierce performed on “M.A.S.H.” was an end-to-end anastomosis. Most of the viewers, actor Alan Alda concedes, had no idea he was talking about removing a damaged piece of intestine and reconnecting the healthy pieces. Today, the award-winning film and television star is on a mission to teach physicians, physicists and scientists of all types to ditch the jargon and…

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Communication Crisis in Research

“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” — Mark Twain Prospects for understanding cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease, and other afflictions have never been brighter. However, a class I teach on presentation techniques at Stanford University School of Medicine, and similar experiences at the UCLA Brain Research Institute and City of Hope National Medical Center, have made me aware of a…

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Making science reporting more fair & balanced

The following guidelines, drawn up in consultation with scientists, science reporters, editors and subeditors, are intended for use by newsrooms to ensure that the reporting of science and health stories is balanced and accurate. They are not intended as a prescriptive checklist and of course shorter articles or NIBs [“news in brief” items] will not be able to cover every point. Above and beyond specific guidelines, familiarity with the technicalities…

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