Why hype is creeping into scientific papers.
When Jean-François Doherty first dipped into research papers on parasitic host-manipulation five years ago, he felt as though he was reading science fiction.
Has our hunger to get published, clicks from social media and overcoming reader apathy, driven us to use language that is dramatic and exciting, but ultimately not entirely accurate? This Nature piece reflects on what is going on in the language researchers use to describe their research.
The “ample use of anthropomorphisms and words borrowed from science fiction” bothered Doherty, a PhD student studying host manipulation by hairworms at the University of Otago in New Zealand. “I knew these words were objectively inaccurate.”
A 2019 study on the taxonomy of a pathogenic fungus (Ophiocordyceps unilateralis), for example, described its hosts as ‘zombie ants’.