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Flattering review in Polar Research

May 11, 2011 Filed under Blog, Featured, News 

Kevin R. Wood of the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean, University of Washington, has written a flattering review in Polar Research. Here are some excerpts.

…at the time of my first reading of Eloquent science, I was rewriting a paper that had not, shall we say, passed gracefully through the peer-review process. Schultz’s book provided useful guidance that improved the paper at once. While there are plenty of books on communication skills for scientists, there is no doubt many students and professionals would benefit as I have from Schultz’s thorough how-to guide to becoming a better communicator of science.

Eloquent science is exceptional in its focus on the practical aspects of scientific communication in its most common forms…. The organization of the book is not unlike a shop manual. Need some hints on how to come up with an effective title? There is a chapter for that (and everyone who has considered a 30 word title ending in ‘‘part one’’ should read it).

Schultz provides one recommendation in this section I really like: oral presentations can be more engaging, provocative and controversial than might be acceptable in a journal format. As Kerry Emanuel writes in a sidebar: ‘‘I try to provoke my audience, mostly by going out on limbs that I would never do in writing a professional paper’’ (p. 262). If this approach is rather rare in reality, it is probably because it requires a certain passion and audacity that may not come naturally to most of us. But Schultz shows there is room to aspire to something more compelling.

…if you require a deeper reference covering a range of communication issues, then I recommend Schultz’s Eloquent science. This is an excellent book that deserves a place on the handiest shelf along with the best standard references. But beyond the workaday nuts-and-bolts guidance on how to write and speak effectively is an important message. It can be seen throughout in the active words Schultz uses to describe the attributes of good communication—connect, engage, provoke, entertain. He lays out the problem in the introduction: ‘‘The hunt for new knowledge excites us . . . But, when we speak or write, we fail to convey our enthusiasm and to personalize our science within a proper context. Purging our personalities from our work sterilizes it. We scientists individually need to find our voices, our creativity, and our originality’’ (p. xxvii). What he is saying is that a dispassionate analysis does not require a passionless presentation. I agree.

Download the review as a PDF here.

Polar Research 2011, 30, 7036, DOI: 10.3402/polar.v30i0.7036.

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