Journal Article

Specialized terminology reduces the number of citations of scientific papers

Martinez, A. and Mammola, S.

Record Number:
Procedings of the Royal Society B
288: 20202581
Words are the building blocks of communicating 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 among scientists that do not share a common scientific 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 a significant negative relationship between the proportion of jargon words in the title and abstract and 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.
Times Cited: