The Metaphor Unchained by Roald Hoffmann, American Scientist Sep/Oct 2006
eugene.garfield at THOMSON.COM
Thu Aug 17 14:57:51 EDT 2006
I heartily recommend this beautiful essay by Nobelist Roald Hoffmann of Cornell University.
Scientists improve their craft by writing about it
Scientists write, first of all for other scientists. It's not publish or perish, but rather that an open system of communication, a commitment (shading to an addiction) to telling others what you have done, is essential to the functioning of science.
The primary medium of communication in the profession is the peer-reviewed article. This, our stock in trade, has a ritual format with strong historical roots. Once more diverse, the language of published articles is now 85 percent English, or an approximation thereto. Declining mastery of language aside, it's probably okay for most papers to be written in a bare style, for the vast majority of more than 500,000 articles published in chemistry and related fields last year is highly specialized (and routine) science. I do wonder about the collective effect of so much stylistically undistinguished writing. Is more harm done by selling lesser science through good style (I'm not talking about hype), or by poor writing pulling down sound science?
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Eugene Garfield, PhD. email: garfield at codex.cis.upenn.edu
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