How a successful scientific paper is a lot like a Eurovision winner

Ben Neely · May 13, 2022

Guest post by Magnus Palmblad

Tomorrow, May 14, 2022, is the Grand Final of the 66th Eurovision Song Contest, with hundreds of millions of fans across Europe (from Azerbaijan to Australia) spending their Saturday evening watching one of the greatest spectacles on television. Explaining Eurovision to American friends, especially those who haven’t seen The Story of Fire Saga is nearly impossible. But in 2016, when Sweden played host after Måns Zelmerlöw’s win the previous year, Edward af Sillén and Fredrik Kempe co-wrote a teasing love letter to Eurovision, outlining the recipe for a winner. Stuffed with references to past performances, the number was memorably performed by Petra Mede (of the “Bonus Family” on Netflix) and Måns Zelmerlöw, making it the highlight of that year’s show.

Remarkably, and with only minor modification, this recipe provides just as sound advice for writing a winning scientific paper:

Step one!

Get everyone’s attention

A powerful, majestic title

Step two, Drums!

Drum home the main points

In the abstract and again in the introduction, results and conclusions

Step three!

Show the viewers the background of your work

Use a narrative to explain where you come from

(But don’t just cite old men)

Step four!

Use intuitive plots, like violins

Trust us, bring a violin

Step five!

Cite some thirty year old results as recent

In science, it will give your paper a contemporary feel

Step six, TOC graphic!

You paper needs to look memorable

Something that the viewers will notice

Step seven, the content!

Everything else might be important, but the content is essential

Let it be about something everyone can connect to

When you have all the pieces are gathered

Go for it and don’t look back!


This and other posts by Magnus Palmblad on science, its history and research integrity can be found on Loose Leaves.