9 November 2020

Share your #SciCommHomonym

Posted by Shane Hanlon

By Shane M Hanlon

Jargon—it’s everywhere, from your favorite sport to politics to your profession. This fact is especially true in the sciences where scientific jargon is often seen as a barrier to effectively communicating with non-science audiences. We in the Sharing Science program usually spend an entire section of our science communication workshops with tips to avoid jargon (here are a few). There are all kinds of resources out there to help scientists reduce/eliminate jargon from their vocabulary, the most famous of which is likely the Up-Goer Five Text Editor.

Sometimes scientists create words to describe certain scientific theories, processes, tools, etc. However, other times an existing word may be co-opted to mean something else; thus the creation of words with multiple meanings. These are words that we as scientists use that mean one things to us and something completely different to non-scientists. A few years ago we created a list specific to the Earth and spaces sciences. We also pulled out some of our favorites to highlight as postcards. Now we’d like to expand our list and we want input from you!

Starting today, please let us know about words with multiple meanings in your fields using the hashtag #SciHomonym on Twitter. We’re looking forward to hearing from you and to helping scientists be more aware of the science words that they use that may mean different things to different people.

Shane M Hanlon is Program Manager of AGU’s Sharing Science program. Find him on Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram