The use of the term ‘limnology’ and its scientometrics consequences for limnologists



Jargon is the specialised vocabulary of any science: it allows the creation of new terms to define concepts and it removes ambiguity from scientific communication. Yet, it may also hinder understanding for a broader audience. Given that the Journal of Limnology has jargon in its title, we here investigate the impact of the term ‘limnology’ on the way limnologists work, publish their research, and attract the interest of other scientists. We do so by comparing scientometric features of papers published from 1965 to 2020 that used the term ‘limnology’ against papers on similar topics but that used the term ‘lake ecology’ or ‘hydrobiology’, and to the marine counterpart of papers that used the term ‘oceanography’. We found that papers using the term limnology score worse than those of the other topics in terms of both publication output and scientific impact. Limnologists may need to use other terms in addition to ‘limnology’ to reach a broader scientific audience.



PlumX Metrics


Download data is not yet available.


Abramo G, D’Angelo C, Di Costa F, 2010. Citations versus journal impact factor as proxy of quality: could the latter ever be preferable? Scientometrics 84:821-833. DOI:

Adams DC, Bitetti MSD, Janson CH, Slobodkin LB, Valenzuela N, 1997. An ‘Audience effect’ for ecological terminology: use and misuse of Jargon. Oikos 80:632-636. DOI:

Ahlgren P, Colliander C, Sjögårde P, 2018. Exploring the relation between referencing practices and citation impact: a large-scale study based on Web of Science data. J. Ass. Inf. Sci. Tech. 69:728-743. DOI:

Aksnes DW, Langfeldt L, Wouters P, 2019. Citations, citation indicators, and research quality: an overview of basic concepts and theories. SAGE Open, 9(1), 2158244019829575. DOI:

Anderson SC, Elsen PR, Hughes BB, Tonietto RK, Bletz MC, Gill DA, Holgerson MA, Kuebbing SE, McDonough MacKenzie C, Meek MH, Veríssimo D, 2021. Trends in ecology and conservation over eight decades. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 19:274-282. DOI:

Ball P, 2017. It's not just you: science papers are getting harder to read. Nature. Available from: DOI:

Barnett A, Doubleday Z, 2020. Meta-research: The growth of acronyms in the scientific literature. Elife 9:e60080. DOI:

Benoit K, Watanabe K, Wang H, Nulty P, Obeng A, Müller S, Matsuo A, 2018. quanteda: An R package for the quantitative analysis of textual data. J. Open Source Soft. 3:774. DOI:

Bertoni R., 2018. Laghi e scienza: introduzione alla limnologia. eBook, 256 pp. Downloaded at

Bertoni R, Bertoni F, 2021. Preserving the heritage of limnology in Italy. J. Limnol. 80:2018. DOI:

Bornmann L, Mutz R, 2015. Growth rates of modern science: A bibliometric analysis based on the number of publications and cited references. J. Ass. Inf. Sci. Tech. 66:2215-2222. DOI:

Bullock OM, Colón Amill D, Shulman HC, Dixon GN, 2019. Jargon as a barrier to effective science communication: Evidence from metacognition. Publ. Underst. Sci. 28:845-853. DOI:

Castelvecchi D, 2015. Physics paper sets record with more than 5,000 authors. Nature News, DOI:

Crawley MJ, 2012. The R Book. Wiley, Chichester, UK. DOI:

De Rond M, Miller AN, 2005. Publish or perish: bane or boon of academic life?. J. Manag. Inq. 14:321-329. DOI:

Deng B, 2015. Papers with shorter titles get more citations. Nature. Available from: DOI:

Elango B, Rajendran P, 2012. Authorship trends and collaboration pattern in the marine sciences literature: a scientometric study. Int. J. Inform. Dissem. Tech. 2:166.

Evans JA, 2008. Electronic publication and the narrowing of science and scholarship. Science 321:395. DOI:

Falkenberg LJ, Tubb A, 2017. Undisciplined thinking facilitates accessible writing: A response to Doubleday and Connell. Trends Ecol. Evol. 32:894-895. DOI:

Flesch R, 1948. A new readability yardstick. J. Appl. Psychol. 32:221-233. DOI:

Forel FA, 1892-1904. Le Léman: monographie limnologique. F. Rouge, Lausanne. DOI:

Fox CW, Paine CT, Sauterey B, 2016. Citations increase with manuscript length, author number, and references cited in ecology journals. Ecol. Evol. 6:7717-7726. DOI:

Habibzadeh F, Yadollahie M, 2010. Are shorter article titles more attractive for citations? Crosssectional study of 22 scientific journals. Croatian Med. J. 51:165-170. DOI:

Hastie T, 2020. gam: Generalized Additive Models. R package version 1.20.

Hortal J, Nabout JC, Calatayud J, Carneiro FM, Padial A, Santos AMC, Siqueira T, Bokma F, Bini LM, Ventura M, 2014. Perspectives on the use of lakes and ponds as model systems for macroecological research. J. Limnol. 73(s1):46-60. DOI:

Hirst R, 2003. Scientific jargon, good and bad. J. Tech. Wri. Commun. 33:201-229. DOI:

Itescu Y, 2019. Are island‐like systems biologically similar to islands? A review of the evidence. Ecography 42:1298-1314. DOI:

Jaffe AB, Trajtenberg M, 2002. Patents, citations, and innovations: A window on the knowledge economy. MIT press. DOI:

Kumaresan R, Vinitha K, Kannan K, 2016. Journal of Aquatic Ecology (2005-2014): A Bibliometric Study. IALA-Journal 4:12-20.

Lei L, Yan S, 2016. Readability and citations in information science: evidence from abstracts and articles of four journals (2003–2012). Scientometrics 108:1155-1169. DOI:

Leimu R, Koricheva J, 2005a. Does scientific collaboration increase the impact of ecological articles?. BioScience 55:438-443. DOI:[0438:DSCITI]2.0.CO;2

Leimu R, Koricheva J, 2005b. What determines the citation frequency of ecological papers?. Trends Ecol. Evol. 20:28-32. DOI:

Lenth RV, 2020. emmeans: estimated marginal means, aka least-squares means. R package version 1.5.3.

Letchford A, Moat HS, Preis T, 2015. The advantage of short paper titles. Royal Society Open Science 2:150266. DOI:

Lüdecke D, Makowski D, Waggoner P, Patil I, 2020. Assessment of regression models performance. CRAN. Available from

Mabe MA, Amin M, 2002. Dr Jekyll and Dr Hyde: author‐reader asymmetries in scholarly publishing. In Aslib Proceedings 54:149-157. DOI:

Mammola S, Fontaneto D, Martínez A, Chichorro F, 2021. Impact of the reference list features on the number of citations. Scientometrics 126:785-799. DOI:

Martínez A, Mammola S, 2021. Specialized terminology reduces the number of citations of scientific papers. Proc. R. Soc. B. 288:20202581. DOI:

McCannon BC, 2019. Readability and research impact. Econom. Lett. 180:76-79. DOI:

Montgomery SL, 1989. The cult of jargon: reflections on language in science. Sci. Cult. 1:42-77. DOI:

Nation I, 2006. How large a vocabulary is needed for reading and listening? Canad. Mod. Lang. Rev. 63:59-82. DOI:

Neuwirth E, 2014. RColorBrewer: ColorBrewer palettes. R package version 1.1-2.

Nieminen P, Carpenter J, Rucker G, Schumacher M, 2006. The relationship between quality of research and citation frequency. BMC Med. Res. Meth. 6:42. DOI:

Orwell G, 1946. Politics and the English language. Horizon 13:252-265.

Plavén-Sigray P, Matheson GJ, Schiffler BC, Thompson WH, 2017. The readability of scientific texts is decreasing over time. Elife 6:e27725. DOI:

Poncet P, 2019. bazar: miscellaneous basic functions. R package version 1.0.11.

R Core Team, 2020. R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria. URL

Regalado A, 1995. Multiauthor papers on the rise. Science 268:25-26. DOI:

Ryan JN, 1985. The secret language of science or, radicals in the classroom. Am. Biol. Teach. 47:91-91. DOI:

Tahamtan I, Afshar AS, Ahamdzadeh K, 2016. Factors affecting number of citations: a comprehensive review of the literature. Scientometrics 107:1195-1225. DOI:

Todd P, Ladle R, 2008. Citations: poor practices by authors reduce their value. Nature 451:244. DOI:

van Rij J, Wieling M, Baayen R, van Rijn H, 2020. itsadug: Interpreting Time Series and Autocorrelated Data Using GAMMs. R package version 2.4.

Vincent WF, Bertola C, 2014. Lake physics to ecosystem services: Forel and the origins of limnology. Limnol. Oceanogr. e-Lect. 4:1-47. DOI:

Wickham H, 2016. ggplot2: elegant graphics for data analysis. Springer-Verlag New York. DOI:

Wickham H, 2020. tidyr: tidy messy data. R package version 1.1.2.

Wickham H, François R, Henry L, Müller K, 2021. dplyr: A grammar of data manipulation. R package version 1.0.3. DOI:

Wood SN, 2017. Generalized Additive Models: An Introduction with R (2nd edition). Chapman and Hall/CRC. DOI:

Yitzhaki M, 2002. Relation of the title length of a journal article to the length of the article. Scientometrics 54:435-447. DOI:

Zeng A, Shen Z, Zhou J, Wu J, Fan Y, Wang Y, Stanley HE, 2017. The science of science: From the perspective of complex systems. Phys. Rep. 714:1-73. DOI:

Zukswert JM, Barker MK, McDonnell L, 2019. Identifying troublesome jargon in biology: Discrepancies between student performance and perceived understanding. CBE—Life Sci. Ed. 18:ar6. DOI:

80 Years of the Journal of Limnology
Aquatic ecology, bibliometrics, citations, hydrobiology, jargon, lake ecology, oceanography
  • Abstract views: 179

  • PDF_early view: 43
  • Dataset: 0
  • Supplementary Table 1: 12
  • Supplementary Table 2: 7
How to Cite
Fontaneto D, Martínez A, Mammola S, Marchetto A. The use of the term ‘limnology’ and its scientometrics consequences for limnologists. J Limnol [Internet]. 2021 Jul. 30 [cited 2021 Sep. 24];. Available from:

Most read articles by the same author(s)

1 2 3 > >>