1The Environment Institute and School of Earth and Environmental Science, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
2South Australian Research and Development Institute, Henley Beach, South Australia, Australia
The rising influence of the conservative voice in science politics (Prick et al. 1981; Wanker, Apcin, Jennerjahn & Waibel 1998) compels the modern empiricist to conduct experimentation, publication and general science communication in an entirely open and highly professional manner (Pain 1996). However, scientists having not yet established a solid reputation for objective excellence (Loser, Jennings, Strauss & Sandig 1998), might find this approach challenging. Of course, scientific mentoring (God, Gumm & Stump 2001; Lancelot et al. 2005) has assisted bringing younger scientists to the fore of public science debates (Odour 1996), even though their ability to convince public dissenters (Yob et al. 2001) might appear futile (Russell & Waste 1998) without employing unconventional communication tools.
To measure a scientist’s capacity to address misinformation (Wrong, Norden & Feest 1994) quickly, efficiently and wittily, here I present a novel analysis measuring the degree of humour employed by scientists as a function of years elapsed since obtaining a PhD. I hypothesise that the use of humour will decrease with age.
I used the ISI® Web of Science search tool to compare 153,496 scientists’ output and impact scores (assessed using the m-index; Crap et al. 1995). I then manually assigned an entirely subjective measure of comedic content for each paper’s title and abstract, summing over each author’s publication list. This, the Subjective Humour Index Tally (S.H.I.T) was then regressed against the number of years elapsed since PhD.
Entirely contrary to expectation, the S.H.I.T. was positively correlated with time elapsed since PhD (statistics not shown because I violated a few essential assumptions). It appears that scientists in general become funnier and less serious with age.
The dubious importance of this finding cannot be understated. This places serious doubts on the essential role of mentors for improving the serious engagement of younger colleagues with the general public. Instead of growing the serious aspects of their science, scientists in general appear to rely on professional mutualisms (Greathead 1968; Philander 1985; Hole 1996; Dick, Brett & Smy 2003) to advance the increasing irrelevance of their work (Russell & Waste 1998; Junk 2002). The take-home message is younger scientists should not necessarily and blindly heed advice from older, more established peers (Bastard et al. 2004) who pursue more and more non-science activities with age (Rumball, Franklin, Frankham & Sheldon 1994; Tail & Hopkins 1998; Beer et al. 2002).
The article is entirely a parody (Hodges, Comic & Briantais 1989) and in no way attributes (the very real) cited authors to the ideas presented. Persons offended by the material herein (Kok, Forbush & McGloin 1970) should seek legal advice (Headley, Fuck, Fuck & Curti 2006).
- Bastard, C., Bauchu, E.C., Daudignon, A., Leroux, D., Poirel, H., & Talmant, P. (2004) Recommandations pour la prise en charge cytogénétique des lymphomes malins non hodgkiniens de l’adulte établies par le Groupe Français de Cytogénétique Hématologique (GFCH). Pathologie Biologie, 52, 260-262. (doi:10.1016/j.patbio.2004.04.010)
- Beer, D.G., Kardia, S.L.R., Huang, C.-C., Giordano, T.J., Levin, A.M., Misek, D.E., Lin, L., Chen, G., Gharib, T.G., Thomas, D.G., Lizyness, M.L., Kuick, R., Hayasaka, S., Taylor, J.M.G., Iannettoni, M.D., Orringer, M.B., & Hanash, S. (2002) Gene-expression profiles predict survival of patients with lung adenocarcinoma. Nature Medicine, 8, 816. (doi:10.1038/nm733)
- Crap, M.J., Boyle, A.H., Jaeger, D., Embrey, J.P., & Elswick, R.K.J. (1995) Evaluation of a new control valve for indirect blood pressure measurement. Journal of Clinical Engineering, 20, 484-490.
- Dick, B., Brett, M.J., & Smy, T. (2003) Investigation of substrate rotation at glancing incidence on thin-film morphology. Journal of Vacuum Science & Technology B: Microelectronics and Nanometer Structures, 21, 2569-2575. (doi:10.1116/1.1627334)
- God, R., Gumm, H., & Stump, H. (2001) Using multiparallel HPLC for purification in drug discovery from nature. American Laboratory, 33, 20.
- Greathead, D.J. (1968) Biological control of Lantana – a review and discussion of recent developments in East Africa. International Journal of Pest Management: Part C, 14, 167 – 175.
- Headley, S.A., Fuck, E.J., Fuck, E.T., & Curti, C.E. (2006) Ovarian teratoma in a bitch. Veterinary Record, 158, 565-567. (doi:10.1136/vr.158.16.565)
- Hodges, M., Comic, G., & Briantais, J.M. (1989) Chlorophyll fluorescence from spinach leaves: resolution of non-photochemical quenching. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta – Bioenergetics, 974, 289-293. (doi:10.1016/s0005-2728(89)80246-4)
- Hole, A. (1996) Vapnik-Chervonenkis generalization bounds for real valued neural networks. Neural Computation, 8, 1277-1299. (doi:10.1162/neco.1922.214.171.1247)
- Junk, W.J. (2002) Long-term environmental trends and the future of tropical wetlands. Environmental Conservation, 29, 414-435. (doi:10.1017/S0376892902000310)
- Kok, B., Forbush, B., & McGloin, M. (1970) Cooperation of charges in photosynthetic O2 evolution–i. A linear four step mechanism. Photochemistry and Photobiology, 11, 457-475. (doi:10.1111/j.1751-1097.1970.tb06017.x)
- Lancelot, C., Spitz, Y., Gypens, N., Becquevort, S., Rousseau, V., Lacroix, G., & Billen, G. (2005) Modelling diatom and Phaeocystis blooms and nutrient cycles in the Southern Bight of the North Sea: the MIRO model. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 289, 63-78. (doi:10.3354/meps289063)
- Loser, P., Jennings, G.S., Strauss, M., & Sandig, V. (1998) Reactivation of the previously silenced cytomegalovirus major immediate-early promoter in the mouse liver: involvement of NFkappa B. Journal of Virology, 72, 180-190.
- Odour, G. (1996). Biological pest control and invasives. In Proceedings of the Norway/UN Conference on Alien Species (eds O.T. Sandlund, P.J. Schei & A. Viken), pp. 116-122. Directorate for Nature Management and Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, Trondheim.
- Pain, V.M. (1996) Initiation of protein synthesis in eukaryotic cells. European Journal of Biochemistry, 236, 747-771. (doi:10.1111/j.1432-1033.1996.00747.x)
- Philander, S.G.H. (1985) El Niño and La Niña. Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, 42, 2652-2662. (doi:10.1175/1520-0469(1985)042<2652:ENALN>2.0.CO;2)
- Prick, M., Gabreëls, F., Renier, W., Trijbels, F., Jaspar, H., K., L., & Kok, J. (1981) Pyruvate dehydrogenase deficiency restricted to brain. Neurology, 31, 398-404.
- Rumball, W., Franklin, I.R., Frankham, R., & Sheldon, B.L. (1994) Decline in heterozygosity under full-sib and double first-cousin inbreeding in Drosophila melanogaster. Genetics, 136, 1039-1049. (doi:10.1038/nm733)
- Russell, G.D. & Waste, R.J. (1998) The limits of reinventing government. The American Review of Public Administration, 28, 325-346. (doi:10.1177/027507409802800401)
- Tail, Z. & Hopkins, S.J. (1998) Sinomenine: antiarthritic antiinflammatory. Drugs of the Future, 23, 45-49.
- Wanker, R., Apcin, J., Jennerjahn, B., & Waibel, B. (1998) Discrimination of different social companions in spectacled parrotlets (Forpus conspicillatus): evidence for individual vocal recognition. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 43, 197-202.
- Wrong, O.M., Norden, A.G.W., & Feest, T.G. (1994) Dent’s disease; a familial proximal renal tubular syndrome with low-molecular-weight proteinuria, hypercalciuria, nephrocalcinosis, metabolic bone disease, progressive renal failure and a marked male predominance. Quarterly Journal of Medicine, 87, 473-493.
- Yob, J.M., Jamaluddin, A., Field, H., Morrissy, C., van der Heide, B., White, J., Daniels, P., Rota, P., & Ksiazek, T. (2001) Nipah virus infection in bats (Order Chiroptera) in Penisular Malaysia. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 7, 439.