02. Section 1.4.4 Responsibility to General Readers, 1991, Antoinette M Wilkinson

In the first chapter of her book The Scientist’s Handbook for Writing Papers and Dissertations, there is a heading Criticisms of Scientific Writing, within which there is a subheading Responsibility to General Readers. I would like to draw some excerpts from the two paragraphs.

“At the root of much of the criticism of scientific writing is the expectation that scientists have a responsibility to communicate with the general reader, an entirely defensible expectation.” is then followed by the remark, “[...] if research is written in everyday language, it is not rigorous enough for other scientists. One can certainly expect, however, that when scientists do write for the general reader, they will use plain, simple, everyday language—but that is more a matter of courtesy than of style.”. Finally (bold added for emphasis), “It is easy to blame the schools for the general ignorance about science of the media for not educating the public, but ultimately, scientists are responsible for the dissemination of scientific knowledge. However, writing scientific papers so that the general educated reader can understand them is not the solution to this problem”

Earlier in the chapter, discussing the interestingness, or lack thereof, of scientific writing, “[...] the purpose of a scientific paper is to record and transmit new scientific information and concepts to peer scientists, and so stylistic techniques to interest readers are subordinate to those that conduce to clarity.” It clarifies that while scientific writing isn’t intended for broad science communication, the responsibility of science communication does still fall to many, but not necessarily all, scientists. It is these sorts of explanations, clarifying the target audience of scientific writing, as opposed to science communication, that I think is lost both on scientists and on audiences, and the author certainly knows it and wants the reader to know as well.

03. SciComm & ISE

01. Games For Learning, 1966, Clark C Abt, Pt 1