Nature Methods | Methagora

What’s in an acronym?

Many scientists (and editors) lament the proliferation of acronyms in the literature, especially for describing methods. As editors of a methods journal, we have some definite opinions about when acronyms are useful, when a new acronym is unnecessary, and what makes a good (or bad) acronym. We discuss this in depth in our July issue Editorial.

A good acronym to describe a novel method gives the research community a simple and effective way to refer to the method. However, optimizations of the method or adaptations for a different application usually do not justify the creation of a new acronym. This trivializes the original advance and the proliferation of similar-sounding acronyms creates confusion in the community. Researchers should be judicious in creating acronyms for methods and think hard about whether a new acronym is truly necessary.

Feel free to share your thoughts about the use—and misuse—of acronyms!

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