Journal Article

Specialized terminology limits the reach of new scientific knowledge

Martínez, A. and Mammola, S.

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Words are the building blocks of science. As our understanding of the world progresses, scientific disciplines naturally enrich their specialized vocabulary (jargon). However, in the era of interdisciplinarity, the use of jargon may hinder effective communication amongst scientists that do not share a common linguistic background. The question of how jargon limits the transmission of scientific knowledge has long been debated, but rarely addressed quantitatively. We explored the relationship between the use of jargon and citations using 21,486 articles focusing on cave research, a multidisciplinary field particularly prone to terminological specialization and where linguistic disagreement among peers is frequent. We demonstrate that the use of jargon in the title and abstract significantly reduces the number of citations a paper receives. Given that these elements are the hook to readers, we urge scientists to restrict jargon to sections of the paper where its use is unavoidable.
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