What is your opinion of acronyms in the titles of papers? A scan of the titles of recently published papers (in the last month or so) reveals that nearly half of all papers have an undefined acronym in its title. Most of these are obvious, or at least should be obvious to those in our field, like IMF and MHD. Others are not so obvious, but can be figured out in context. The winner, in my view, is one that is currently highlighted in the top image-scroll at the JGR-Space Physics page, starting out with “Coordinated SuperDARN THEMIS ASI observations…” Three in a row!
While I am not opposed to acronyms in paper titles, I think that we as a community should be very cautious about their use. You should always define an acronym the first time you use it in the paper and, separately, the first time you use it in the Abstract (because this is a stand-alone paragraph). Some advocate defining the acronym at the first usage within each section of a paper, but I think that this is overkill. Perhaps a second definition in the Conclusions section is useful because many people skip to that part of the paper first. The point is that acronyms should be defined, and their usage in the title is therefore, awkward, because you usually don’t want to increase the title length to define an acronym. With the title, the authors should be striving for brevity but also clarity. Scientists are known for their love of jargon and, in my opinion, acronyms in titles further perpetuate this stereotype. Furthermore, they usually don’t help very much with the understandability of your paper’s content for people outside of your specialty.
Again, from my glance through the list of recent paper titles, I see that most of the acronyms refer to something having to do with the methodology. They refer to the data set used, the model technique employed, the spacecraft or observing platform, or a location (e.g., at 1 AU). Rarely do the acronyms refer to the scientific finding in the paper, which is perhaps a better focus of the paper title rather than on the methodology. My point is that you can probably find another way to phrase the title that doesn’t use an acronym by highlighting the scientific result rather than the technique used to obtain it.
Therefore, I encourage all of you to think hard about the use of acronyms in paper titles and seek out ways to remove them so that the title is more accessible to a larger audience. I will not reject your manuscript based on acronyms in the title, but, from now on, I and the other editors might ask you to consider rewriting your paper title into something that doesn’t use acronyms.
Before you accuse me of hypocrisy, a quick scan of the titles of my papers shows that I have used Dst, MGS MAG/ER, and GEM IM/S. In my defense, though, the last time I used an acronym in a title of my first-author papers was in 2006 (unless I overlooked one in my quick scan). I try not to use acronyms in titles anymore and I actively encourage my coauthors to rewrite titles to avoid acronym use. I hope that you do the same.