Strikingly important it is not

I read a research article in which the authors asserted the “striking importance” of their results in about 20 – 30 % of the sentences. Apart from the distraction of reading “strikingly” and “importantly” in every third sentence, the article made me wonder why the authors make these assertions so frequently. One reason could be that the authors want to control the thinking of the readers. This is most clear when the authors describe the magnitudes of measured responses as “dramatic”. I find it much more informative to know that the magnitude of the response is 2–fold rather than to know that the authors find this dramatic. More deeply, I think these frequent assertions of importance reveal that the authors lack confidence in the importance of their results. As a scientist, I would prefer to be presented with the data and the suggested interpretations and allowed to evaluate them critically for myself. Assertions of “striking importance” distract from such independent evaluation and are inimical to the scientific method; they also suggest that the authors felt the “striking importance” of the results would not be clear unless they assert it.

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