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Down with Dry Writing

"Why must dryness be written by us?" Adam Ruben asks in a passive voice in Science Careers this week. As scientists, he actively asks, "why can't we tell our science in interesting, dynamic stories?"

Ruben goes on to discuss the ways in which scientific writing is "just plain different from all other writing." He says that journal articles are "not written in English, per se; they're written in a minimalist English intended merely to convey numbers and graphs." For example, scientists are often taught to avoid writing in the first person. "Science succeeds in spite of human beings, not because of us, so you want to make it look like your results magically discovered themselves," Ruben jokes. Another oddity, he adds, is that many journals prefer manuscripts be written in past tense.

"But there's a reason scientific journal articles tend to be dry, and it's because we're writing them that way," Ruben says. "We hope that the data constitutes an interesting story all by itself, but we all know it usually doesn't. It needs us, the people who understand its depth and charm, to frame it and explain it in interesting ways."

The Scan

Pig Organ Transplants Considered

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration may soon allow clinical trials that involve transplanting pig organs into humans.

'Poo-Bank' Proposal

Harvard Medical School researchers suggest people should bank stool samples when they are young to transplant when they later develop age-related diseases.

Spurred to Develop Again

New Scientist reports that researchers may have uncovered why about 60 percent of in vitro fertilization embryos stop developing.

Science Papers Examine Breast Milk Cell Populations, Cerebral Cortex Cellular Diversity, Micronesia Population History

In Science this week: unique cell populations found within breast milk, 100 transcriptionally distinct cell populations uncovered in the cerebral cortex, and more.