Bob Dylan inspires medical scientists

A supplied image obtained Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015 of scientists and Bob Dylan fans at the Karolinska Institute. A group of scientists at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden had been sneaking the lyrics of Bob Dylan into their papers as part of a long running bet. (AAP Image/The BMJ) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Margaret Scheikowski


(Australian Associated Press)

Bob Dylan’s lyrics have inspired a generation including, it seems, medical scientists.

It’s just been revealed that they’ve long been referencing the American troubadour’s words in their published papers.

The Times They Are A-Changin’ tops the list with 135 articles, while Blowin’ In The Wind comes in second with 36.

Other popular titles include All Along The Watchtower, Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door and Like A Rolling Stone.

The unusual research, published in the Christmas issue of The BMJ, flows from the disclosure last year that a group of scientists at Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet had been sneaking the lyrics of the singer-songwriter into their papers as part of a long-running bet.

That inspired a Karolinska librarian and two colleagues to investigate the use of Dylan’s lyrics in titles of biomedical papers further afield over the years.

They did a search of all his song and album titles, as well as looking for truncated versions of a selection of Dylan’s most popular songs to find modified titles.

In all, 213 of 727 references were classified as unequivocally citing Dylan.

The earliest reference was in 1970 in the Journal of Practical Nursing, but only a handful continued the practice until 1990.

“However, since then, the number of articles has increased exponentially,” wrote librarian Carl Gornitzki.

The authors suggest the reason is “that some of the young and radical students of the 1960s who listened to Dylan ended up as medical doctors and scientists and, perhaps more importantly, as editors of journals in the 1990s and onwards”.

“A more liberal attitude towards eccentric article titles in general could also partially explain our findings.”


* Blowin’ in the Wind – The BMJ editorial title about the risk of hang gliding

* The Times They Are A-Changin’ – Burns journal article starts by paraphrasing Dylan with “Come editors and authors throughout the land”

* Like a rolling histone – used in review of epigenetics

* Knockin’ on pollen’s door: live cell imaging of early polarization events in germinating Arabidopsis pollen


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