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What use is open access, when nobody can understand the jargon?

April 27, 2012

Natalie Jacobs – who is on the textbook publishing side (full disclosure, I served as reviewer of an intro psych textbook that she handled) linked in this article from the guardian.  The point the author tries to make is that open access means little, when the writing is so arcane that nobody but the inner kabal can understand.  (Of course, in some instances, only the inner kabal is even ever interested…).

I do understand the point.  Journals are filled with cruddy, boring writing, and the humpty-dumpty tendency to define words in ones own little way, which is different from other ways.  (I wrestled with Gestalt and Holistic during my PhD.  I recently read about the various definitions of Altruism and its implication for reasoning about multi-level selection – but I digress).

Yet – how far can one take the “write it readably” when it comes to academic communication?  Yes, there is a point to be readable, but yes, there is also a point in being able to use the jargon short hand, for, god knows, there is already way too much to read, and I rather not have to spend more time going through some standard concept for the n’t time when I try to get what is interesting with just this paper.

Which made me think of how we have this saying “got it down to a science” which means that there is no mystery and we have a perfectly formulated algorithm for this, when actual science is much more about the Unknown Unknowns, as this book review in nature  highlights.  (And, who tweeted me onto that?  I have to keep better track of my friendly tweet sources.  Plus, I need to buy that book).

Science seems to connote certainty, but scientists know this is where noone has gone before.

 

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