Article by Mark Johnson: “The reviewer was not impressed with the paper written by Israeli brain researcher Idan Segev and a colleague from Switzerland.
“Professor Idan,” she wrote to Segev. “I didn’t understand anything that you said.”
Segev and co-author Felix Schürmann revised their paper on the Human Brain project, a massive effort seeking to channel all that we know about the mind into a vast computer model. But once again the reviewer sent it back. Still not clear enough. It took a third version to satisfy the reviewer.
“Okay,” said the reviewer, an 11-year-old girl from New York named Abby. “Now I understand.”
Such is the stringent editing process at the online science journal Frontiers for Young Minds, where top scientists, some of them Nobel Prize winners, submit papers on gene-editing, gravitational waves and other topics — to demanding reviewers ages 8 through 15.
Launched in 2013, the Lausanne, Switzerland-based publication is coming of age at a moment when skeptical members of the public look to scientists for clear guidance on the coronavirus and on potentially catastrophic climate change, among other issues. At Frontiers for Young Minds, the goal is not just to publish science papers but also to make them accessible to young readers like the reviewers. In doing so, it takes direct aim at a long-standing problem in science — poor communication between professionals and the public.
“Scientists tend to default to their own jargon and don’t think carefully about whether this is a word that the public actually knows,” said Jon Lorsch, director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. “Sometimes to actually explain something you need a sentence as opposed to the one word scientists are using.”
Dense language sends a message “that science is for scientists; that you have to be an ‘intellectual’ to read and understand scientific literature; and that science is not relevant or important for everyday life,” according to a paper published last year in Advances in Physiology Education.