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The Mind of a Scientist = The Mind of an Artist/Musician

Constanze Bonifer bonifer at sun2.ruf.uni-freiburg.de
Thu Jan 30 10:17:34 EST 1997

Airlie Sattler (airlie at mindspring.com) wrote:


: Now I am a research assistant at a university. I have a great job, a
: decent income, and a unique source of metaphor when I go to write. I find
: that long tedious protocols produce some of my best poems. I participate
: in a writing workshop which meets after work. I'm quite happy.

: The only conflict I've run into so far is that I get frustrated with the
: very poor quality of scientific writing. Sometimes I think in an attempt
: to sound "scientific", scientists make their language far more awkward
: than it needs to be. "The drier the more scientific" seems to be the
: unstated understanding. 
: Emotion is absolutely not allowed. God forbid you be excited about your
: work. A paper must appear to  be completely impersonal. I'm sure there is
: a reason for this, but I wonder about it sometimes. I have heard an
: argument that emotion is not considered scientific because it is
: considered a female trait. What do you readers think? 

: -Airlie

Dear Arlie,

Yes, it would be womderful to read some papers written in a more colourful 
language, however, please keep in mind that english is not everybody s 
first language. It is bad enough having to write up the results in a language 
not your own, but setting the standards such that the language is supposed 
more complex or so would place half the world into a severe dilemma..

the fact that papers have to be written in short concise english makes it 
much easier for us to write  them. Still, I regularly get busted from 
referees for not writing correct english ..oh..by the way, we have a scientist 
here with a hungarian name who is actually a canadian, he gets these comments 
as well...
I personally think that when the data are beautiful and the results are 
stunning I do not need a lot of blabla around to get exited. And that has nothing to do 
with feminine or masculine view of science.

Imagine what would happen if we would have to use a more complicated grammar as
in creative writing..That would be a nightmare.
I, by the way write short stories and reports in my native language, german, so I know what I am talking about.So much for the artistic bent. And I sing and play the guitar, just to add my two cents to the ..me too..chorus...


Constanze Bonifer
Institut fuer BiologieIII
Universitaet Freiburg

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