Two Israeli academics have found that the use of humour in the title of a scientific paper can be seriously detrimental to the number of citations received. Since academics increasingly live or die by the number of citations their work receives this news could seriously affect the levels of humour in the science and technology worlds.
Itay Sagi and Eldad Yechiam looked at a range of papers published over a number of years in two leading psychology journals. They had small teams of judges who reviewed paper titles and rated them for amusement levels. The citations of papers were then compared and the team found that the use of an exceptionally amusing title was “associated with a substantiate ‘penalty’ of around 33% of the total number of citations”. This was after other possible variable factors had been eliminated. Their full paper appears in the Journal of Information Science’s October edition.
Reviewing the results, the two academics postulate various reasons for this, including the obvious one that people might think humorous pieces are somehow less professional or worthy than other titles. But they also mention that a humorous title is less likely to include the professional keywords that make searching for an article online or in a database just that bit easier. I thought this was interesting given a piece that was published in yesterday’s Guardian Education about the increasing role of online journals. In this article it was noted that academic papers now have a tendency to have more tedious titles which attempt to cram in as many all-important professional keywords as possible.
Given that this blog hopes to inject the occasional burst of humour into the world of technology, this probably means that my days are numbered.