Jargon Jumble - The Up-Goer Five Challenge

ISA's Jargon Jumble - The Up Goer Five Challenge
(Or, Can You Explain Your Research Using Only Common Words?)

Who has not been told that their writing is filled with jargon? The use of field-specific language makes it harder for colleagues to understand what we try to say, and for our work to have a potential impact outside of academia. One recent study, for example, found that work using less jargon was more likely to be cited, even within academic circles (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/09/science/science-jargon-caves.html). If we want to promote our scholarship beyond academia, we must work to communicate in ways that are accessible to everyone.

Achieving the goal of more accessible language is no easy feat, however. We would thus like to challenge convention attendees to develop the most accessible and understandable version of their work possible and submit it for review against others. This competition will culminate at the Annual Convention. The winner will receive a free registration for the following Annual Convention. The final competitors will participate in a roundtable at the Annual Convention to discuss their work and the challenges of effective professional communication.


Submit a 250-word (maximum) abstract describing your current research using only the 1000 most common English words. Participants will be limited to one entry.

(A text editor and translator assistance can be found at https://splasho.com/upgoer5/ or you can access the list directly here).

Background and Details:

  1. Some examples and discussion of a similar competition hosted by the American Geophysical Union (agu.org) can be found at https://eos.org/articles/can-you-explain-science-using-only-1000-common-words .  (The line-up for the AGU’s fall conference can also be found at https://agu.confex.com/agu/fm20/webprogram/Session110682.html, for your information.)
  2. Another example from outside International Studies is of a comic developed with common words, found at:  https://xkcd.com/1133/ (image also available right).
  3. The ISA Executive Committee will be the judges for the competition.  Their decisions are final and not open to appeal.

We Tackled the Challenge (and “translated” the first two paragraphs using only common words)...

Who has not been told that their writing is filled with hard speak? The use of focused field talk makes it harder for people to understand what we try to say, and for our work to have possible change outside of our close and closed groups. One new study found that work using less hard speak was mentioned more, even within college crowds (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/09/science/science-jargon-caves.html). If we want to forward our study work outside of colleges, we must work to share words in ways that are open to everyone.

Approaching the mark of more open words is not easy, however. We would like to offer a call to ISA 2022 people to build the most open and easy form of their work possible and offer it against others' work. This struggle will end at ISA in MontrĂ©al in 2023. The person with the best words will get a free pass for ISA 2024. The group of best will also take part in an open meeting in MontrĂ©al to share their work and the struggle of building clear, good words.

(Compiled using Theo Sanderson's https://splasho.com/upgoer5/ text editor assistance.)

The Up Goer Five

Inspired by xkcd's comic (below), the Up-Goer Five Challenge asks that participants use the ten hundred most common words to describe their research. (NASA's Saturn V explained using only the 1000 most common English words.)