Choosing the right acronym for your project.

In my first thesis publication I propose a method for pollen-based climate reconstruction using non-metric multidimensional scaling and generalized additive models, called (clunkily) NMDS/GAM.  Follow this up with a talk by Jim Ramsay where he discussed the fact that Functional Data Analysis isn’t really an accurate title, but it’s catchy.  He (jokingly?) made the point that if you want people to use your method you need to come up with a good name for it.  Of course, now I’m part of a project called PalEON, which is a great acronym, since it reflects our intent to operate as a paleoecological analogue of NEON (to some degree).  Maarten Blaauw uses food acronyms, Clam, Bacon (and the upcoming BLT); no comment on those, other than the prospect of a somewhat disgusting meal.

An amazing logo.
Fig 1. A logo for the proposed ridiculously named project. The lightning bolt symbolizes lightning and the wolf symbolizes a wolf. The map is purely practical.

So, a catchy name or acronym is probably a good idea, how important is it?

I’m currently fleshing out a project looking at climate change in the Pacific Northwest.  One of the names I’m considering is BPrIME, which describes the use of Biological Proxies for Improving the Modeling of Extremes, but what does BPrIME mean, other than being catchy?  The other option, given that we’d be using Garry oak, is eXtreme GORing!  Ridiculous, I know.  But it begs the question, if your acronym is ridiculous, will it kill a submission?  If our science is really great, would calling our project eXtreme GORing kill it?  I hope that it goes without saying that my collaborators would never let me use an eponymous acronym, but what if they did?

So, here’s something for the comments.  Have you come across any ridiculous scientific acronyms, or coould you make a great one from your name, but were too scared to do so?  Would you penalize a researcher if their project contained a ridiculous acronym?

Listening to:  Ahmed Jamal – Poinciana (Live)


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Assistant scientist in the Department of Geography at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Studying paleoecology and the challenges of large data synthesis.

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