Yes, Most Journal Articles Are Written in Word

A recent article on Slashdot about some journals rejecting Word 2007 documents has brought up an interesting point.  Most journal articles ARE written in Word.  People seem to be shocked that this is the case, and appalled that anyone who has a PhD would be using such a tool.  Well, I hate to break it to you, but even in computer science these days I don’t see a heck of a lot of students graduating with knowledge of TeX, much less in the natural sciences.  Older professors, especially in math departments are fond of TeX, but not a whole lot of people teach it, or require it, so people don’t learn it.My advisor originally set out to require students to produce reports in TeX for a Neuromechatronics class he was teaching, but in the most recent year this has been eschewed since students end up spending more time learning how to prepare reports than actually writing them.Now, whether all of this is sad or not is an entirely different question, but people, intelligent or no, generally follow the path of least resistance.  Students have grown up using word processors, are familiar with them, and tend to balk at other options.  If one expects journal articles to be written in TeX or another open format, it needs to be an aspect of curriculum at some point.  Sure, some folk, like me, will go off and learn it anyways and even write class notes in it, but we’re few and far between. Plenty of pre AND post doctoral people use software like Excel as well to do data analysis.  It’s there, it can do number crunching, and it’s on practically every Windows machine.Is it sad that this is the case? Perhaps.  Think of it this way, however; most people have a limited area of expertise.  That may be in computing, neurobiology, quantum physics (yeah, they’re broad categories, so something much more specific within these), and generally not in other areas.  Sure, we all need to know what’s going on in the world outside of our immediate work, but are things like TeX, MATLAB (or Octave, or whatever), necessities within working in a technical realm?  This is hard to say.  I’d be happy to see everyone more savvy, but I’m not sure if requiring these things are validly simply elitist or not.  Perhaps that doesn’t matter either, and people should just have familiarity with as many tools as possible. We all should be well rounded in our technical abilities, shouldn’t we?  I’m sure we’d all be better off if we were.

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