One of the first things people (ok, teens) ask of foreigners is how to swear in their native language. Since science can almost be considered a language of its own considering all the jargon, I figured I should let people in on a few key cuss words. I don't mean justifiable (or not) critiques of a study, such as "poorly controlled" or "unconvincing data". Once I got "oversimplified to the point of factual inaccuracy". Ouch. What I mean is words or phrases that will make a researcher cringe, even if it's not aimed at them. In no specific order:
You know that study you've been working your butt off on and are 2 experiments away from submitting to a nice journal? Yeah, someone else had the same idea and just published it. They're going to get all the citations, and you're going to be left in the cold.
Sample sentence: "Dude, you just got scooped by Jim's lab."
Sorry guys, I'm not Indiana Jones. Plus, that's spelled "artifact", not with an e. This type is a result that looks interesting, but is actually man-made, such as by experimental error. Definitely a downer if you think you've figured something out.
Sample sentence: "I thought I cured cancer, but it was just an artefact."
Incremental gain of knowledge
Most commonly found in reviews of grant applications, this is widely applicable to any body of work that you wish to belittle. Since high impact journals necessitate novel, exciting data, you're essentially telling this person their work is kindergarten level. Granted, it's often a valid criticism, but it's still cringe worthy.
Sample sentence: "Your study only gives incremental gain of knowledge and your mom stinks too!"
This sounds good, right? Exploration is a good thing! Yeah, not when we're talking about study design, again often seen in grant applications. In this context, it means unsupported by preliminary data and generally not hypothesis driven. Also called a "fishing expedition", this is where you cast a wide net and hope you pull in some significant data. An acceptable and often necessary way to start a new idea, but definitely not what reviewers want to finance with a half a million dollars or so.
Sample sentence: "We could fund this exploratory grant, or we could just give the money to that cat on the sidewalk and hope for the best."
noun or verb, depending on use
Don't say this. Just don't. If your data's not actually significant, you're going to make the senior scientists wince. Or if you must, back it up with further data that shows that the trend was a valid starting point.
Sample sentence: "While not statistically significant, the data trend shows an increase in people who hate me."
Sometimes, no matter how statistically significant and well controlled data is, it's just not going to make an actual difference in the grand scheme of things. In this case, it oftens means that an interesting pathway discovered in a cell line just isn't going to affect the whole human body enough to matter.
Sample sentence: "You sure did show a decrease in that protein, too bad it's physiologically irrelevant."
So there you have it. Easy, simple ways to annoy the scientist in your life. Oh wait, maybe it was a bad idea to post this and tell my friends how to get under my skin...