The Silence of the Lambs (film)
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In a recent post on the Weird Experiments blog, Reto U. Schneider reveals the results of probing Google Scholar for papers based on movie names. It’s a fairly easy exercise — simply type in a movie name, and watch the papers usher forth. The movies inspiring the most titles of academic papers include:

  • The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
    • “The Good, the Bad, and the Outsourced”
    • “The Good, the Bad, and the Whole Grain
    • “The Good, the Bad, and the Cell Type-Specific Roles of Hypoxia Inducible Factor-1 in Neurons and Astrocytes.”
  • Sex, Lies, and Videotape
    • “Sex, Lies, and Herbicides”
    • “Sex, Lies, and Insurance Coverage”
    • “Sex, Flies, and Microassays.”
    • Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask)
      • “Everything you always wanted to know about Amorphophallus, but were afraid to stick your nose into!”
      • “Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Copula Modeling but Were Afraid to Ask”
      • “Everything you always wanted to know about protein kinases but were afraid to ask.”

    Other movies garnering homage in scholarly realms include Some Like It Hot, Dances with Wolves, and The Silence of the Lambs (e.g., “The Silence of the Lambdas: Deterring Incapacitation Research”).

    If you want to see how pervasive movie titles are in the scientific and academic literature, just run your favorite movie title through Google Scholar, and watch the results issue forth. It’s a mix of books, somewhat normal Google results, and scholarly results, but the papers are pretty easy to spot.

    Not everything generates mild hilarity. The Lord of the Rings generates some disappointingly unimaginative entries, as does There’s Something About Mary.

    As you’d anticipate, there’s a scolding quality to papers based on Dumb and Dumber — but it gets a little lost in on particularly forced example:

    • “Dumb and dumber–the potential waste of a useful antistaphylococcal agent: emerging fusidic acid resistance in Staphylococcus aureus.”

    You can also find strings of papers with titles borrowed from song titles, such as the Nirvana-inspired, “Smells Like Clean Spirit: Nonconscious Effects of Scent on Cognition and Behavior” and “Smells like sib spirit: kin recognition in three-spined sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus) is mediated by olfactory cues.”

    It’s a good reminder that science is a human endeavor, and that researchers are often a little giddy when they get to the point of writing their paper’s title.

    Happy Friday!

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    Kent Anderson

    Kent Anderson

    Kent Anderson is the CEO of RedLink and RedLink Network, a past-President of SSP, and the founder of the Scholarly Kitchen. He has worked as Publisher at AAAS/Science, CEO/Publisher of JBJS, Inc., a publishing executive at the Massachusetts Medical Society, Publishing Director of the New England Journal of Medicine, and Director of Medical Journals at the American Academy of Pediatrics. Opinions on social media or blogs are his own.


    18 Thoughts on "Scientific Papers Named After Movies and Songs — Variations Abound in Google Scholar"

    I remember a while back, the Nature news interview with the man (I think his name is Anurag?) responsible for Google Scholar itself – headline “Lord of the Files”.

    I’ve always been fond of a 1988 paper called “The cattleship Potemkin: reflections on the first Neolithic in Britain”.

    I quite like, “The Dark Side of the Salad: Salmonella typhimurium Overcomes the Innate Immune Response of Arabidopsis thaliana and Shows an Endopathogenic Lifestyle.”

    The ones that contrast a snappy cultural reference against a dense, technical, and polysyllabic descriptive are best, I agree. Great choice!

    My favourite is a 1996 review on myosin in Cell titled ‘Fifty Ways to Love Your Lever’

    On the literary side “pride and prejudice” seems quite popular, especially in the medical literature. Most relevant however, is this hummer: “The intellectuals and the masses: pride and prejudice among the literary intelligentsia, 1880-1939.” Cited 241 times no less.

    I love me a clever title, but I often wonder how much sense some of these are going to make 300 years from now. And then you get the oddball ones that take some Google work (for me, at least) to understand. . .”Burly gaits: centers of mass, stability and the trackways of sauropod dinosaurs” is lost on me. Maybe a reference to “Pearly Gates”?

    Well, ’tis not just limited to movies and songs. Some of us get inspiration from literature classics, curious to see who amongst the publishers and editors here identifies the origin of “Tracking in the Wlds–the hunting of the SIRT and the luring of the Draper”

    And songs:

    “Face to face, mind to mind, it sho’ nuff ain’t no zombie jamboree.” Jackson, J.J. (1972) J Natl Med Assoc 64:2, p145-50.

    My favourite title is a quote derivation:
    “Editors Can Lead Researchers to Confidence Intervals, but Can’t Make Them Think.”

    The title of my Charleston talk, forthcoming in the next issue of ATG, is “Back to the Future: Old Models for New Challenges.”

    Can I just issue a challenge to my old colleagues in the astronomy community: Where are the Star Wars-themed titles, people??? C’mon, we have endless possibilities….:)

    Search for “strikes back.” It’s there. The problem with the “Star Wars” franchise titles is that they’re fairly hard to riff on (“revenge” “return”).

    Oh my goodness, I can see this becoming a time suck. “Some Like It Hot, But Not the First Biomolecules.” HA!

    There are 16 papers on Pubmed with the words “how I learned to stop worrying and love the”. Following words including internet, nucleus accumbens, calcineurin, glycophospholipids, core competencies and MLC/3D treatment planning, stereotactic linac.

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