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The Languages of Science in Cancer Nursing Research

Hinds, Pamela S. PhD, RN, FAAN

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doi: 10.1097/NCC.0000000000000119
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Words matter. This is true whether the words are spoken or in written form. In science, words are chosen for their accuracy, specificity, sensitivity, descriptive clarity, and likelihood of helping others to directly and readily communicate ideas and their worth to others. Language in science was, for Einstein, the connection between thinking and words.1 For cancer nursing research, language in science is the connection between thinking and action. Einstein spoke of language in the singular. In cancer nursing research, language in science is plural; these multiple languages of science in cancer nursing research are the connections between thinking and taking action to protect the health of patients, families, communities, and nations.

The plural nature of the languages of science in cancer nursing research can be easily seen in the words and terms that are reflected in our science and our care. One language of science is exemplified by such words as gene engineering and genomic signatures, epigenome targeting, tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes and adoptive therapy, antitumor immune response, down regulation pathways, and programmed cell death. Another language of science in cancer nursing research includes the words and terms hope, quality of life, pain, loneliness, grieving, end of life, late effects, suffering, and survival. A third language of science in cancer nursing research reflects purposeful action taking with words such as intervention of the behavioral and nonbehavorial types, monitoring, evaluating, and modifying based on patient-reported outcomes. Although these language forms are plural, they do intersect and can overlap, but they continue in their multiple forms as they inform and guide our scientific exchanges and our care. It is these languages that help us to identify and both convey the actualities of our present day in cancer nursing and the promise of a better future time for those who will benefit from our research and our care.

The languages of science in cancer nursing research have oral and written forms, and the 2 are not the same. The written language in science is a carefully detailed and preserved chronology of events and facts. The spoken language is an invitation to interact with an idea and persons who are invested in the idea. These 2 languages engage us differently, and it is likely that both are necessary to help an idea move forward to well-based action taking.

It is unlikely to have a single researcher who is so multicultural as to speak or write the diverse languages of science equally well. For the cancer nurse researcher, this immediately indicates the needs and benefits of team science and the importance of articulating the languages of science directly represented in the study at hand. We need to create our teams to include others who speak fluently at least 1 of the languages of science and who listen well to the other languages of science.

The languages of science take us places. Those places can be prespecified such that the actual journey and the destination have few surprises, but most likely, the languages take us on journeys that guarantee surprises and that may or may not end up at the originally anticipated destination. Regardless, the journeys are important and well worth taking, and they are waiting for us. I invite you to enjoy the good reads of the journeys of the authors included in this issue of Cancer Nursing: An International Journal of Cancer Care and, through them, the destinations to which the languages of science take us.

My very best to you,

–Pamela S. Hinds, PhD, RN, FAAN

Department of Nursing

Research and Quality Outcomes

Children’s National Medical Center

School of Medicine and Health Sciences

Department of Pediatrics

The George Washington University

Washington, DC


1. Open Culture. Listen as Albert Einstein reads “The Common Language of Science.” Accessed October 17, 2013.
© 2014 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins