Hoffman, R. (1988). Under the surface of the chemical article. Angewandte Chemie International Edition in English, 27, 1593-1602.
In case you want to read it too. I recommend it.
Hoffman looks at the chemistry article through a non-science scholar's eyes and paints a beautiful picture of what chemistry (and science) really is, and how the reality of science can be obscured by the emotionless form of the scientific article.
My husband and I have a fundamental disagreement on the beauty of nature. He sees chaos and danger, while I see an amazing interconnected world in which every drop of water, every leaf, every living, moving thing is amazing. Except maybe spiders. I might agree with him on spiders.
Anyway, the way I see nature is why I became a scientist. The world is cool, and I wanted (and still want) to know more. My view of nature is why I am so driven to share with others. I want to make sure they're not missing out. I'm really not trying to be sappy and melodramatic here, but it is true. This world is crazy exciting. Going deeper just makes it better. Like ogres.
The thing is, most people don't see that kind of excitement when they read a scientific article. Most of the time, it is because it is not there. Science and science writing are supposed to be objective and unemotional. Hoffmann argues that because of this personal distance in our writing, scientists come off as cold and stoic, an automaton that doesn't make mistakes.
I agree with Hoffmann. I think that this image has done science a bad turn. When we remove humanity from science, science becomes this vague "thing" that does this or that. Thus, when some public scandal hits one scientist, it hits us all. But, who reads scientific articles anyway? Not laypersons (not usually, anyway. I do know a few.).
Hoffmann points out in this article that the current concise and objective form of the scientific article came about because of "Natural Philosophers" who pulled evidences from and described "Nature" without verifying what nature is actually like. Thus, a standard format requiring experimental evidence squelched the poets and sages. Has the squelching gone too far? Maybe. Scientists have a really hard time (in general) communicating with the outside world. Maybe we do need to reconsider how we communicate with one another.
I think perhaps that I should put on my history of science hat and think about this a different way. The point of the article is, that the scientific journal article never tells the whole story. It leaves out the real process - the trial and error, the frustration, the emotion, the fact that I had three months of sample data missing because I dropped and broke an entire tray of crucibles containing my samples. We might be able to understand the progress of the field by looking at trends in articles, but we'll never understand the progress of a single article by reading that particular article. And yet, this does not invalidate the progress of science (see Hoffmann's Personal View #6: As a system, science works).
There is a lot to say about this article, and I haven't even really expressed a kernel of what Hoffmann succeeds in saying. Perhaps the main take-home message is that the language and the form of the scientific article communicates more than we think and less than it should.