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If math matters to science, we wouldn’t know it from scientists’ behaviour

From “Scientists Struggle With Mathematical Details, Study by Biologists Finds” (ScienceDaily, June 25, 2012), we learn:

Scientists would like to believe that the popularity of new theories depends entirely on their scientific value, in terms of novelty, importance and technical correctness. But the Bristol study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, shows that scientists pay less attention to theories that are crammed with mathematical details.

Dr Tim Fawcett and Dr Andrew Higginson, researchers in Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences, found that scientific articles presenting many equations on each page are seldom referred to by other scientists. The most maths-heavy articles are referenced 50 per cent less often than those with little or no maths.

Various solutions are suggested, including moving the equations to an online appendix.

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3 Responses to If math matters to science, we wouldn’t know it from scientists’ behaviour

  1. 1

    No wonder they don’t like math stats…they tend to highlight the fact the odds of blind random chance being the creator of wonderfully complex traits are, for all intents and purposes, mathematically impossible. I guess ignoring the hard facts makes it easier for them to believe their myth.

  2. Moving equations to technical appendices — save where this is the main purpose of a paper — and stating summaries that explain derivations and then making them clear with illustrations?

  3. math is just a language or another way of putting it.
    Biology or physics really don’t need math a I see it.
    The essence of these subjects is about forces of action and measuring it adds little to insight or discovery.

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