Monday September 29, 2014

Swedish scientists confess to hiding Bob Dylan lyrics in research papers

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Bob Dylan

Reuters

It all started with an article called ""Nitric Oxide and inflammation: The answer is blowing in the wind," written by two scientists at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. Professor John Lundberg tells As it Happens host Carol off that after he and a colleague wrote that paper, they noticed another scientist using Dylan lyrics in his publication. So they called him and asked "Why don't we start a competition?"

So they did. Now 17 years later, the challenge continues among a growing number of scientists in Sweden to see who can sneak the most Dylan lyrics in their papers before they retire.

"The academic world in general is very rigid and stiff," says Lundberg. "When you write a paper, it's very formal, the language you have to use."

Curiously, Lundberg says he didn't know how many scientists were actually using Dylan lyrics until a couple of weeks ago when a librarian was compiling papers discovered that four separate groups at the research institute were doing the same thing.

"I'm not sure what the chancellor of Karolinska thinks about this, but I think he's okay with it," says Lundberg. 

Titles like "A Slow Train Coming" and "The Times They Are a-Changin" get used in scientific papers all the time, he says. Other titles include: "Blood on the tracks: a simple twist of fate" and "Tangled up in blue: Molecular cardiology in the postmolecular era."

Now the secret is out, Lundberg says he hopes his Dylan challenge will go international. What's the prize?

"Lunch at the local canteen."