A guide to help you understand academics and researchers

A bit of fun on the Friday before Spring Break:

In a department meeting, when an academic says “With all due respect,” what they really mean is “I’m about to be rude.”

If the department chair suggests, “Can we take this up next time?” they really mean “I don’t have my minions here right now.”

When the junior faculty member interrupts to say “I have a question.”, they really mean “I have a comment.”

The still-hanging-in-there professor emeritus says “As I recall, we do have a precedent for that,” but really means “As the longest-standing faculty member in the room, I can make up anything before 1970.”

If the faculty senate representative says “The dean has asked for our opinion,” it really means “He wants a rubber-stamp approval.”

The faculty member who never holds back says “I have issues with — “, but really means “I can’t tell you how much this pisses me off.”

When a scientist tells the press that a cool new technology will be available in 5 years, what they really mean is “I’ve solved the interesting research problems.  The rest is just business, which is easy.  Right?”

Spilled Coffee
Image courtey of Flickr user Miss_Colleen

If they say the cool new technology will be available in 10 years, they really mean “We haven’t finished inventing it yet, but when we do, it’ll be awesome.”

When a research article claims, “It has long been known”, the authors really meant to say “I don’t know the original reference.”

If the author states, “Three samples were selected for detailed study,” what they should have added is “Because the other ones sucked!”

When the article claims that “It is generally believed that” they really mean that “I think this and at least one other person agrees with me.”

Or if the author suggests that “Additional work will be required to elucidate the mechanism”, they really mean  “I don’t have a clue what is going on and I’m not going to be the one to figure it out.

And if the author says that they did “A careful analysis of obtainable data”, it may really mean “I analyzed what data I could, which wasn’t much because the other data was lost (chemical/coffee spill, computer error, equipment malfunction, etc.).”


Check out the links below for more translations.

Translation of the Last Department Meeting – At the U of All People

Researcher Translation – From the great xkcd.com

Interpreting Statements in Scientific Papers: What Common Research Phrases Really Mean – I saw a version of this hanging in my office in grad school in 1999


One thought on “A guide to help you understand academics and researchers

  1. These put a smile on my face! Thanks for sharing. If it were on Facebook, I’d give you a “likes this” and Twitter, a re-tweet. 🙂 Enjoy the quietness of spring break on campus!

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