jargon is a problem in scientific studies jargon is a problem in scientific studies Scientists are notoriously bad at writing sentences that regular people can understand. (Photo: ibreakstock / Shutterstock)

Can't understand science studies? That might be about to change

A new tool is taking the 'gibberish' jargon out of the research papers scientists write.

Have you ever tried to read a scientific study, only to immediately give up on a sentence like "Lack of adequate monetary incentives has been cited as one of the major reasons for supply side shortfall in the public sector"?

It's not your fault. That sentence might only mean something like "Countries gotta pay nurses if they want them to be nurses." But the complicated jargon makes it super hard to understand if you're not an expert in the field. Jargon isn't just confusing for regular people – it's also confusing for scientists in different fields.

That's why researchers from the Technion Institute in the Israeli city of Haifa and the Holon Institute near Tel Aviv made a tool called the "De-Jargonizer" to try and take the jargon out of science.

a scientific paper full of jargonA paper put through the De-Jargonizer. It's total nonsense to anyone not in the field. (Photo: Technion- Israel Institute of Technology and Holon Institute of Technology)

You just upload the scientific article, and the program color-coats every word based on how jargony it is – orange for a bit jargony, and red for super jargony. The program also gives the article a "suitability for general audience" score out of 100. The more jargon, the lower the score. This tool can help scientists realize when they're writing what looks like a bunch of gibberish to everyone else.

"Science is fascinating to many, but sentences about research full of expert-level terms and descriptions can scare away even the most passionate audiences," write the scientists who made the tool.

Scientists writing these papers often don't realize that they're using so much jargon. They're so used to being experts that they've forgotten what it's like to not automatically know things like "transurethral resection" or "receptor-mediated hydrolysis." In fact, even when scientists write summaries of their studies for the public, they tend to leave in a lot of jargon. One study found that summaries written for laypeople are usually about 10 percent jargon.

"The scientists intuitively understand they need to use less jargon when speaking with the public than to their peers," says Ayelet Baram-Tsabari, a Technion professor who worked on the study. "Using so many unfamiliar words excludes the very people they are trying to engage."

By the way, I put the study about the De-Jargonizer through the De-Jargonizer, and here's what it looks like:

The paper about the De-Jargonizer put through the De-Jargonizer. aA scientific paper full of jargon about how scientific papers need to have less jargon. (Photo: Technion- Israel Institute of Technology and Holon Institute of Technology)

Apparently, even the guys trying to get rid of jargon could use a little of their own advice.


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