Scientist Are Like Vampires

Interviewing scientists in academia presents unique challenges.

A lot of the researchers I have interviewed so far have been friendly, funny, and happy to answer questions. I get great quotes from our conversations. Sometimes I send quotes and explanatory paragraphs back to researchers to make sure they are factually accurate.

Some of the researchers take the opportunity to stick incomprehensible jargon right into the article’s jugular, and suck all the lifeblood out of every one of their quotes. I understand that scientists want to be taken seriously by other scientists, and they don’t want to make claims they can’t fully support with evidence. But it hurts to watch their personalities shrivel and die on the page. There’s nothing like having to accept a revision that changes “this is really alarming stuff”  into “these results may raise certain concerns.” Snore.

I think I may have found a wooden stake. Or at least some garlic powder.

When I got a thoroughly dusty draft back from a researcher, I called on the phone, ostensibly to clarify a couple of points. I deliberately misunderstood what was meant by the dry revision, forcing the researcher to say it again in simper language. That way the scientist was happy, but I still got a quote with a heartbeat.

And now to drain this post dry: With a sample size of only n=1, it is too early to draw any definitive conclusions about the efficacy of this method, and so I must conclude that additional study is needed.


About szubryd

I come alive when I talk about science. Whether I'm asking about marine ecology or writing about endocrine-disrupting chemicals, I light up. I've found myself vehemently defending evolutionary theory from inside a bathroom stall, sitting at a bar holding the interest of self-proclaimed potheads with an explanation of endogenous cannabanoid receptors, and discussing the causes of eutrophication in streams on a second date (he was a keeper, by the way). It took an astute college mentor and the challenge of reporting about bisphenol A to point me toward science writing as a career. I had a hard time believing I could make a living doing something so interesting, so much more rewarding than listening to marketers pitch the environmental benefits of their latest drain cleaner—the one with "Toxic" on the label. What could be better?
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One Response to Scientist Are Like Vampires

  1. Danielle says:

    Hilarious Sasha!

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