Have Scientists Become More Positive or Negative in the Last Four Decades?

Synopsis: Researchers in the Netherlands analyzed all scientific abstracts in PubMed between 1974 and 2014 to investigate whether language used skewed toward a strong positive or negative slant. They selected 25 key words in each category, and 100 randomly selected words, and studied their frequencies in the papers.

Conclusion: The researchers concluded that scientists in general tend to look on the bright side of scientific results. The frequency of positive words increased from 2% to 17.5%. Specifically, there was a particular increase in the words ‘robust,’ ‘novel,’ ‘innovative,’ and ‘unprecedented.’ Despite these findings, the researchers caution that further research would be needed to test if this is true to the beliefs held in reality. Negative word frequencies also increased, but just from 1.3% to 3.2%. There were no increases found in neutral word frequency.