a lifetime word limit…

“Exceptions might have to be made for experts such as statisticians and bioinformaticians whose skills are required on many papers.”

One of these weird editorials periodically occurring in Nature. By Brian Martinson, suggesting that the number of words allotted to a scientist should be capped. Weird, indeed, and incomprehensible that Nature wastes one of its so desperately sought journal page on such a fantastic (in the sense of fantasy, not as in great!) proposal. With sentences like “if we don’t address our own cognitive biases and penchant for compelling narratives, word limits could exacerbate tendencies to publish only positive findings, leading researchers to explore blind alleys that others’ negative results could have illuminated” not making much sense even in this fantasy academic world… As for the real world, the list of impossibilities and contradictions stemming from this proposal would certainly eat all of my allotted words. Even those allotted to a statistician. The supreme irony of the (presumably tongue-in-cheek) editorial is that the author himself does not seem particularly concerned by capping his own number of papers! (Nice cover, by the way!)

2 Responses to “a lifetime word limit…”

  1. Robin Morris Says:

    Donald Geman made a similar proposal many years ago – abolish conference papers and limit journal papers to a lifetime limit of 20.

    http://www.cis.jhu.edu/publications/papers_in_database/GEMAN/Ten_Reasons.pdf

  2. This sounds bizarrely like an Eddie Murphy movie from 2012 called “A Thousand Words”, in which the concept of a lifetime word limit was applied quite literally. As the result of magical shenanigans, Murphy’s character is only allowed to speak a total of 1000 words before he dies.

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