Worlds from words

All scientists are writers. Science only exists in the written form. What is not written is not published, is not accepted, is not knowledge, and does not exist. It is written science that is scrutinised, peer-reviewed, and cited – nothing else matters but to ‘publish or perish’. Scientific articles, in all their clever, compacted, content-laden complexity, may well be impenetrable to all but the most specialist reader, but this does not mean they are poorly written. Articles are extraordinarily difficult to craft; writing them is the hardest and most intellectually challenging aspect of scientific practice. Evidence – the experimental result or the novel observation – may well lie at the heart of science, but until this evidence is written up and published it remains an unpolished gem which cannot be appreciated or understood. Through the medium of the written word, science has taken us to new worlds. Charles Bazerman argues that ‘scientific writing is one of the more remarkable of human literary accomplishments … [and has] literally helped us move mountains and to know when mountains might move on their own’.

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Published in February 2014 no. 358

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