No video this week, instead, I wanted to share a recent comic from the always thought-provoking and funny Randall Munroe. Here, he takes on the unspoken themes behind many scientific papers.

XKCD Comic
Used under Creative Commons license from Randall Munroe,

I’m sure many of those hit home, and was thinking about a few I could add from the many bibliometric and other analyses I read these days (“This phenomenon in a small number of journals is correlative with too many confounding factors to really understand, and I will grudgingly mention that, but I’m still going to strongly suggest it is causative, because I really want it to be” or “Here’s some ideas I have about how the world should work”).

What about you — what are the standard papers in your field?


David Crotty

David Crotty

David Crotty is a Senior Consultant at Clarke & Esposito, a boutique management consulting firm focused on strategic issues related to professional and academic publishing and information services. Previously, David was the Editorial Director, Journals Policy for Oxford University Press. He oversaw journal policy across OUP’s journals program, drove technological innovation, and served as an information officer. David acquired and managed a suite of research society-owned journals with OUP, and before that was the Executive Editor for Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, where he created and edited new science books and journals, along with serving as a journal Editor-in-Chief. He has served on the Board of Directors for the STM Association, the Society for Scholarly Publishing and CHOR, Inc., as well as The AAP-PSP Executive Council. David received his PhD in Genetics from Columbia University and did developmental neuroscience research at Caltech before moving from the bench to publishing.


23 Thoughts on "XKCD on the Types of Scientific Papers — What Would You Add to this List?"

This light travelled a loooooooooong way through the universe before it it hit our shiny new sensor, you’ll be AMAZED at what it means.

Papers that contain semicolons or witty remarks in their titles, or are submitted just before midnight on Wednesday’s in mid-summer get more citations! We don’t know why, but that won’t stop me from speculating!

We don’t know and have not figured out how to know what we don’t know

We compared dozens and dozens of variables, and a few of them seem to be vaguely correlated.

I changed one variable in the experiment by a factor of 0.000000001 percent and got a new result which varies from the original result by 0.0000000000000000002 percent.

Undomesticated Hominid You Engender my Cardiovascular Musculature to Erupt in Song

Climate change will likely accelerate/exacerbate problems we’ve had for years

We know how to solve the problem, but people won’t change because money

Here Are 4,317 Words to Say the Revised Standard Now Establishes Three Tests Instead of One as Best Practice

New trial on overdone topic reveals previous outcomes remain constant.

Hey! I see you have published lots of articles on X, so here is another one saying much the same thing …

When a person who is already sick gets something else they do worse than if they had not already been sick with something else. Let’s check this on every single condition known.

I added an nth confounding variable. There’s still an opportunity for further research.

Here’s how covid-19 might affect my research area.

Here’s what my research area can do about covid-19.

Competing interest: guilty of both!

Global decline and die off of houseplants left unwatered for months in empty offices: unintended consequences of a global pandemic.

File under climate change (indoor category) or COVID?

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.

This means that you are free to copy and reuse any of my drawings (noncommercially) as long as you tell people where they’re from.

That is, you don’t need my permission to post these pictures on your website (and hotlinking with is fine); just include a link back to this page. Or you can make Livejournal icons from them, but — if possible — put in the comment field. You can use them freely (with some kind of link) in not-for-profit publications, and I’m also okay with people reprinting occasional comics (with clear attribution) in publications like books, blogs, newsletters, and presentations. If you’re not sure whether your use is noncommercial, feel free to email me and ask (if you’re not sure, it’s probably okay).

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