If you want to revolutionize science forever, don't give your paper a joke title

Illustration for article titled If you want to revolutionize science forever, dont give your paper a joke title

Nothing breaks the ice like a good joke, right? Sadly, that isn't the case with scientific papers, as those with the funniest titles get swept aside in favor of dry, technical titles. When did science become so hopelessly square?


This strange finding comes from a 2008 study by the Israel Institute of Technology in the Journal of Information Science. In what really has to be their most meta post ever, NCBI ROFL has dug up this research. Here's what original researchers Itay Sagi and Eldad Yechiam discovered:

The present study examines whether the use of humor in scientific article titles is associated with the number of citations an article receives. Four judges rated the degree of amusement and pleasantness of titles of articles published over 10 years (from 1985 to 1994) in two of the most prestigious journals in psychology, Psychological Bulletin and Psychological Review. We then examined the association between the levels of amusement and pleasantness and the article's monthly citation average.


I can't imagine a more rigorously scientific way of establishing whether something is funny or not than putting together a panel of four judges. Admittedly, I also can't imagine a less scientific way of doing it, if only because of the whole "comedy is subjective" thing. Still, the researchers are about to mention something about standard deviations, so I think this is all on the level:

The results show that, while the pleasantness rating was weakly associated with the number of citations, articles with highly amusing titles (2 standard deviations above average) received fewer citations. The negative association between amusing titles and subsequent citations cannot be attributed to differences in the title length and pleasantness, number of authors, year of publication, and article type (regular article vs comment).

So then, if you want your paper to be cited and respected by your peers, I guess it's better to leave the humor at home. That's a shame, because I'm guessing this means the researchers won't agree with my main criticism of Albert Einstein's seminal 1905 paper "On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies", which laid out the theory of special relativity and is quite possibly the most important scientific paper of all time...namely, I really think it could have used more fart jokes.



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Oh, I think we could make humor into a less subjective thing...