What makes influential science? Telling a good story

What makes influential science? Telling a good story
Credit: University of Washington

It turns out that even in the world of scientific writing, your eighth-grade teacher was right: how you write can matter as much as what you write.

In a study published Dec. 15 in the journal PLOS ONE, from the University of Washington looked at the abstracts from more than 700 about climate change to find out what makes a influential in its field. But instead of focusing on content, they looked at writing style, which is normally more the province of humanities professors rather than scientists.

Their idea was that papers written in a more narrative style—those that tell a story—might be more influential than those with a drier, more expository style. Psychology and literary theory have long held that if you want someone to remember something, you should communicate it in the form of a story. The UW researchers—led by Annie Hillier, a recent graduate from the UW's School of Marine and Environmental Affairs, and professors Ryan Kelly and Terrie Klinger—wondered whether this theory would hold up in the realm of peer-reviewed scientific literature.

Remarkably, it did. The most highly cited papers tended to include elements like sensory language, a greater degree of language indicating cause-and-effect and a direct appeal to the reader for a particular follow-up action.

"The results were especially surprising given that we often think of scientific influence as being driven by science itself, rather than the form in which it is presented," Hillier said.

Perhaps even more surprising, the researchers noted, was the finding that the highest-rated journals tended to feature articles that had more narrative content.

"We don't know if the really top journals pick the most readable articles, and that's why those articles are more influential, or if the more narrative papers would be influential no matter what journal they are in," Kelly said.

The researchers used a crowdsourcing website to evaluate the narrative content of the journal articles. Online contributors were asked a series of questions about each abstract to measure whether papers had a narrative style, including elements like language that appeals to one's senses and emotions.

The researchers hope this work might lead to advances in scientific communication, improving the odds that science might lead the way to better decisions in the policy realm.


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More information: PLOS ONE, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0167983
Journal information: PLoS ONE

Citation: What makes influential science? Telling a good story (2016, December 16) retrieved 16 September 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2016-12-influential-science-good-story.html
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Dec 16, 2016
It is the same for teaching in seminars.

Relating to other experiences in their lives can help folk better understand the phenomena.

Dec 16, 2016
a greater degree of language indicating cause-and-effect

Um...kind of a no-brainer that papers that can show more cause-effect relations are more influential.
What else are you going to cite 8i.e. base your own work on) besides papers that can actually show that?
The rest doesn't matter one bit.

Dec 16, 2016
It is the same for teaching in seminars
Especially when these lunch-and-learn seminars are written by real engineers and delivered by teams. But not so good when you ad lib and spend the whole time talking about yourself (like you do here) and then youre fired after a year.

But it does help to fabricate your own accolades.

"You are the best!"

"I've been an electrical engineer for over 15 years, . . . and this is the first time I really understood it!"

"Excellent! This was one of the most fruitful and educational workshops that I've had the privilege to attend"

"Mr. George Kamburoff was one of the most captivating speakers I've ever witnessed."
https://youtu.be/IxAKFlpdcfc

Dec 16, 2016
The rest doesn't matter one bit
@antialias_physorg
not sure i agree with that last part simply because it's so much easier to retain something when you're interested

and i can see how it applies to science or studies .... you're more likely to share the information (or point it out to others) when it's a good story *and* good information

this, in turn, gives you a higher probability of being able to associate it with peripheral or tangential studies or information

this is demonstrated most obviously in writing (books, short stories, articles, etc) where it's the style of the author writing the same story as another that captures the interest of a broader audience and thus gets higher ratings or dissemination over a lesser author, though the story may be the same

all offered IMHO only, mind you

Dec 16, 2016

and i can see how it applies to science or studies .... you're more likely to share the information (or point it out to others) when it's a good story *and* good information

I agree, but that would presuppose that there exist two papers with equal information and one with better story than the other. However, I've never come accross that combination. "Every leaf is different..." and all that jazz. Goes doubly for the information content of every scientific paper.
You cite the one with the best information.

That said, there is a flipside: There is a point where papers are written so badly that the amount of information in them doesn't matter (because it is obfuscated to the point where you can't really dig through it - or if you can then you're never sure whether you 'got' what the author was trying to say.

So I'd revise to: Beyond a certain minimum of writing style any further increase in storytelling ability doesn't matter.

Dec 16, 2016
It's also a function of how you read papers as a scientist. You don't read them front to back (weird, I know)...You read the abstract first, then you jump to the back for the results. If it's relevant to what you're doing then you read the methods and materials sections. These sections are (and should be) bone dry. Facts and *only* facts. If you start finding copious amounts of adjectives in there then that's a big red flag.

The actual 'story' part isn't in any of these sections. That would be in:
1) The 'state of the art' section (which you mostly just skim, because if you work in the field you're already very well aware of this.) (Note: as a _reviewer_ this is one of the first sections you check)
2) The 'discussion' part (if there is one). But you mostly only check this for any limitations/planned future work mentioned.

These two parts are not very important to the content of the paper (and the paper would lose very little if they were omitted).

Dec 16, 2016
This is NOT a problem with all the true sciences but only Climate "science". Why? Because AGWism is a cult that has heaped its disgrace on science. So, after all their lies have failed what is the desperate AGW cult to do. Well, a very enlightened man once said --
"If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit."

But, no matter how hard they try, dogma can never be science.

Dec 16, 2016
antialias_physorg.............it wouldn't surprise me if the Author had you in mind, all you do is tell Stories interspersing them with a little science on rare occasions.

Dec 17, 2016
No, what this means is that people who believe in global warming are easily persuaded by style over substance.

Run the study against something that is proven scientific fact, and let's see if the results are the same.

Dec 17, 2016
It's never easy to find the right balance between information and manipulation. If you want to achieve something, you also always need some manipulation. But if the manipulation is too obvious, you loose your credibility.

Dec 17, 2016
How else can you get funding, the financial contributors care about interests not good science.

Good science gets more and more marginalized by the day.

Example, leaded fuel.

Dec 17, 2016
Sorry pal, where there's money you inevitably get corruption.

Or were those scientists representing the tobacco industry right and smoking IS actually healthy for you?

Dec 17, 2016
Hey, 51, we are discussing the techniques of getting across technical information and concepts. Having spent the last decade of my work performing technical seminars, it is true.

Many phenomena in science are ubiquitous, and if we can relate to another one we know inherently, we can then understand how it applies to other phenomena.

I want to thank Rumpy for displaying some of the comments I got in my seminars. They came off my website. If you do not get those kind of comments, you do not teach for a decade as a consultant.

Dec 17, 2016
here there's money you inevitably get corruption.

OK, think this through for a second. Let's say you do this once (style over substance) to get funding.
1) Funding is determined by recommendations from a review panel. A review panel consists of scientists in the field. They will spot this immediately
2) Even if you get away with it once then someone will tear your publication apart with their publication. Which basically means your science career is over. So going for the sytely over substance is a sure fire way of destroying a career that it took you several decades to build within the course of 2-3 years. That's not smart. and if you can say one thing about scientists then it's that they're smart.

, all you do is tell Stories interspersing them with a little science on rare occasions.

I'm not writing papers on here. Papers are written for a knowledgeable audience. That's go WAY over your head.

Dec 17, 2016
I want to thank Rumpy for displaying some of the comments I got in my seminars
And so where are the citations?
They came off my website
-and out of your ass.
If you do not get those kind of comments, you do not teach for a decade as a consultant
-which is why you made them up. The same reason you bought your honorary MS for 'life experiences' and then try to pass it off as an actual MS.

And most people, like that college admin who threw you out of the interview, wont fall for this kind of ignorant bullshit.

How come youre too stupid to realize this? Why do you decide to cheat when being honest would actually be easier? Is this the real reason why you ended up as a walk-in at the VA mental ward?

Dec 17, 2016
Hi Ghost, gkam, everyone. :)

Been busy,not posted for a while; but been reading y'all. Saw that Ghost was going nicely for a while because he seemed to be taking my advice to leave out ego/malice and just apply his intellect/time to discussing/researching science/logics instead of pursuing personal vendettas. But above I see Ghost reverting to his old and wasted life/intellect mode for personal ego/malice motives which make him sound obtuse and just plain nasty.

@ Ghost, I pointed out to you before, that in those early days (WWII/Cold War), there were many new technical knowledge/disciplines evolving which only a few creative/original thinker types actually understood. It was these types (gkam obviously being one of them) who actually created/developed the FORMAL COURSES 'material' which was taught at many different venues as the demands arose during war and commercial exigencies. Such 'peripatetic' situations were 'the norm' then (and still happens today). Understand? :)

Dec 17, 2016
@STOLEN VALOR LIAR-bully
I want to thank Rumpy for displaying some of the comments I got in my seminars
1- OT irrelevant and false claim (aka- LIE)

2- i have never once posted, quoted, typed, copied or displayed any comment you got from your supposed seminars

you can't actually validate that they belong to other people, nor can you prove that those comments are legitimate

they also are far more likely to be your own pathetic attempt to drum up business
that's called false advertising unless you can prove they're not you

adding to that, you've already agreed that you aren't an engineer
Ira is correct that I am not a degreed engineer, nor a registered one.
http://phys.org/n...oad.html

so, per your request to clean up the site...

.

.

I see Ghost reverting to his old
@idiot pseudoscience troll sam

and you've posted 6032 and still can't actually provide evidence for your claims
STFU


Dec 18, 2016
understood. It was these types (gkam obviously being one of them) who actually created/developed the FORMAL COURSES 'material' which was taught at many different venues as the demands arose during war and commercial blah
-And then there is the peculiar phenomenon of the psychopath apologist. Just how weak and mealy are the personalities of such lapdogs and yesmen and buttkissers as these? Pretty weak and mealy indeed I should think yes. And smelly. Wot.

Dec 18, 2016
"What makes influential science? Telling a good story."

10 The disciples came to him and asked, "Why do you speak to the people in parables?"

11 He replied, "Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables:

"Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

"'You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
15 For this people's heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.'

Dec 18, 2016
Heal me oh lord of the need for parable.

Dec 18, 2016
Hi Stumpy, Ghost. :)

Your personal Off Topic posts keep derailing otherwise interesting discussions/threads. Please cease with your personal vendettas; and just stick to on topic science/logic discussion/arguments. Thanks. :)

Dec 18, 2016
@idiot pseudoscience troll sam :P
Stumpy
Your personal Off Topic posts keep derailing otherwise interesting discussions/threads. please pause for a moment to STFU and recognize that you've posted 6034 times and you still haven't been able to validate your own claims. :(

Please cease with your personal vendettas, delusional Dunning-Kruger based stupidity and various attempts to moderate when you, yourself, can't comprehend the basic requirements for scientific discourse, and just stick to on topic science/logic discussion/arguments. Thanks. :)

Dec 18, 2016
Explaining how technical stuff really works was my business. Once again, relating certain phenomena to those already understood by the students makes it more easily transferable. But it is necessary to identify exactly the similarities and those which do not fit, and why.

The purpose is understanding, not memorization nor just covering topics or filling time.

Dec 18, 2016
Hi Stumpy. :)

Is that what your day is reduced to? Childish babbling and ego-tripping personal vendettas?

Please try to keep on topic with your comments. Have you any relevant views to put re the role/benefits of relevant storytelling for the purpose of better science communication to variety of audiences?

Thanks in advance for returning to on topic science related posting. Cheers. :)

Dec 18, 2016
Hi gkam.:)
Explaining how technical stuff really works was my business. Once again, relating certain phenomena to those already understood by the students makes it more easily transferable. But it is necessary to identify exactly the similarities and those which do not fit, and why.

The purpose is understanding, not memorization nor just covering topics or filling time.
Yes, well put. It is a pity that in many fields (cosmological/theoretical physics for example) the 'understanding' part seems to have been naively/expediently jettisoned, possibly due to personal interests/limitations and/or publish-or-perish imperatives etc etc.

It's good to see that some people still put understanding before 'parroting' and expediency for personal reasons. Thanks for your efforts in encouraging/enabling understanding over the years, gkam. Some people do appreciate your efforts since those early days as a peripatetic consultant/trainer. Cheers. :)

Dec 18, 2016
Thang kew, RC.

Dec 19, 2016
Hi loser :)
Explaining how technical stuff really works was my business
-and from what youve told us you were a failure at it. Only one of the many positions you got and lost.

So tell us something new.

Dec 19, 2016
So tell us something new.
You mean like the glam-Skippy has added to his resume? Oh yeah, he is now teaching courses on how to do technical writing. He just got that job so I don't know how good he is at it.

Here is the link. (You can look over at the right side where it says "Works at".)

https://www.quora...ollowers

Dec 19, 2016
How's the fixation?

Dec 19, 2016
How's the fixation?
Hows that sick compulsion to lie about what youve done and what you know? Perhaps if you had any talent for telling stories your crap would actually sell-
You mean like the glam-Skippy has added to his resume? Oh yeah, he is now teaching courses on how to do technical writing. He just got that job so I don't know how good he is at it
Not like it makes any difference. He hasnt worked in years and years.

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