Culture Intelligent Design Science

Is it a myth that scientists are awful writers?

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Cover From English prof Lisa Emerson’s publisher:

In The Forgotten Tribe: Scientists as Writers, Lisa Emerson offers an important corrective to the view that scientists are “poor writers, unnecessarily opaque, not interested in writing, and in need of remediation.” She argues that scientists are among “the most sophisticated and flexible writers in the academy, often writing for a wider range of audiences (their immediate disciplinary peers, peers in adjacent fields, a broad scientific audience, industry, and a range of public audiences including social media) than most other faculty.” Moreover, she notes, the often collaborative and multidisciplinary nature of their work results in writing practices that “may be more socially complex, and require more articulation, mediation, and interpersonal communication, and more use of advanced media and technology than those of faculty in other disciplines.”

Drawing on extensive interviews with scientists, Emerson argues that writing scholars have “engaged in a form of cultural appropriation” that has worked against a deeper understanding of the contexts in which scientists work and the considerations they bring to their writing. Emerson grounds her analysis in the voices of scientists in a way that allows us to understand not only how they approach writing but also how we might usefully teach writing in the sciences. The Forgotten Tribe offers a valuable contribution to our understanding of scientific writing, allowing us to hear voices that are seldom included in our discussions of this critical area.
More.

The publisher makes the book sound like yet another social-justice whine, excusing failure. That is unfortunate because scientists don’t need the excuses. Many scientists are fine writers, most are not. Most of the public does not care and does not need to. And scientists don’t need anyone to adopt SJW grievance lingo (“cultural appropriation”) to discuss the scene.

File under: More pot-moderns going after science.

See also: Nature: Stuck with a battle with post-moderns it dare not fight, even for the soul of science.

4 Replies to “Is it a myth that scientists are awful writers?

  1. 1
    asauber says:

    Comparing/mixing the generalizations “scientists” and “writers” is not a scientific exercise, and as News points out, probably only useful for excuse-making.

    Andrew

  2. 2
    Bob O'H says:

    The publisher makes the book sound like yet another social-justice whine, excusing failure. That is unfortunate because scientists don’t need the excuses. Many scientists are fine writers, most are not.

    Eh? Failure on whose part? Emerson ‘offers an important corrective to the view that scientists are “poor writers, unnecessarily opaque, not interested in writing, and in need of remediation.”’, so she’s clearly not excusing scientists. Like you, she’s saying that (some) scientists are good writers.

    This is strange, your habit of attacking people you agree with.

  3. 3
    News says:

    Bob O’H at 2, she’s right but the SJW whine about cultural appropriation is way out of place.

  4. 4
    Bob O'H says:

    News @ 3 – Huh? Who’s the SJW who’s whining?

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