WTF, when will scientists learn to use fewer acronyms?

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Have you read of DNA? It stands for Do Not Abbreviate evidently. Jokes apart, it’s the most commonly used acronym in scientific literature in the past 70 decades, showing extra than two.four million situations.

The limited type of deoxyribonucleic acid is commonly recognized, but there are hundreds of thousands extra acronyms (like WTF: drinking water-soluble thiourea-formaldehyde) that are making science significantly less valuable and extra complex for society, according to a new paper introduced by Australian scientists.

Queensland College of Technologies (QUT) Professor Adrian Barnett and Dr. Zoe Doubleday from the College of South Australia (UniSA) have analyzed 24 million scientific article titles and 18 million abstracts involving 1950 and 2019, on the lookout for developments in acronym use.

Even with recurring calls for researchers to decrease their use of acronyms and jargon in journal papers, the tips has been mainly dismissed, their findings exhibit in a paper released in eLife.

A lot of of the million exceptional acronyms recognized in the past 70 decades are resulting in confusion, ambiguity and misunderstanding, making science significantly less available, the scientists say.

“For illustration, the acronym UA has 18 different meanings in medicine, and six of the 20 most commonly used acronyms have various typical meanings in health and medical literature,” according to Dr. Zoe Doubleday.

“When I search at the top 20 scientific acronyms of all time, it shocks me that I realize only about 50 percent. We have a true difficulty here.”

DNA is universally acknowledged, but the next most well-liked acronym CI (self esteem interval) could easily be bewildered for chief investigator, cubic inch or typical interface. Similarly, US (United States/ultrasound/urinary program) and HR (heart price/hazard ratio) generally trip individuals up.

Prof Barnett claims the use of acronyms in titles has extra than trebled due to the fact 1950 and improved ten-fold in scientific abstracts in the similar interval.

“Strikingly, out of the million acronyms analyzed, we found that two {0841e0d75c8d746db04d650b1305ad3fcafc778b501ea82c6d7687ee4903b11a} (about two,000) had been used extra than ten,000 situations,” he claims. “Even when the one hundred most well-liked acronyms had been taken off, there was continue to a clear improve in acronym use over time.”

Entrenched producing designs in science are hard to shift and abnormal acronym use details to a broader conversation difficulty in science, Dr. Doubleday claims, but journals could support stem the trend by proscribing the selection of acronyms used in a paper.

“In the foreseeable future it may well be possible—software permitting—for journals to present two variations of the similar paper, 1 with acronyms and 1 with out, so that the reader can decide on the variation they favor.”

Amount of media coverage for scientific analysis connected to selection of citations

Extra data:
Adrian Barnett et al. The growth of acronyms in the scientific literature, eLife (2020). DOI: ten.7554/eLife.60080

Journal data:

Offered by
College of South Australia

WTF, when will researchers find out to use less acronyms? (2020, August fourteen)
retrieved sixteen August 2020

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