Friday, 12 December 2014

jargon in academic publishing

 A friend passed this Ottawa Citizen article to me awhile ago. Basically it shows that it is fairly easy to publish garbage in predatory journals for a price and that it may have a negative impact on the integrity of science writing.

It reminds me of the Sokal Hoax ( in which physicist Alan Sokal published an article in the 1990s in the journal Social Text basically arguing that aspects of physics were a social construction. The article was fiction but was accepted as academically sound.

The similarity between then and now, is that it is possible to publish in academia with jargon that is impenetrable by most people. It is something that has been developing since the early 1900s as science became professionalized and disciplinary jargon became used as short-hand to quickly discuss complex concepts without having to unpack the meaning.

It appears we may have gone too far and perhaps should hold ourselves to a standard which demands that anyone with a reasonable intellect should be able to understand our writing and not be accessible only to those with years of disciplinary experience. I suspect that many of us try to teach our students this when they are writing term papers for our courses. We need to model the same for our students.


Spears T. 2014. Blinded by gobbledygook. Ottawa Citzen, April 21 (updated May 20).