Por Mauro Rebelo

How to write scientific project reports


For scientists who enter the market after being trained by academia, communicating the results of their experiments and research is a major challenge.

They continue to prepare texts and reports for the master’s and doctoral examining boards with which they have lived their entire academic lives, more concerned with the criticism of their peers than with the functionality of their products.

But in industry it’s different: the most important thing is functionality. That’s why the manager who monitors the development of projects is a generalist and not a specialist in the area. He accompanies projects of all kinds: from IT to civil and electrical engineering, from agriculture to health, from business to biotechnology.

The general manager is not one of the scientist’s peers and will not technically judge their results or assess their viability. Judgment in the industry isn’t by peers, it’s by technology: it works vs. it doesn’t work.

Focus on results

The report should then focus on the results obtained and on reducing the technological and market risks of the final product. In agile development projects, the report should also update the product vision and the technological roadmap to achieve it. It is not necessary to contain the methodological details to reproduce the experiments, or even to judge whether the way in which the results were obtained is valid, or the best.

But that doesn’t mean that this information isn’t important. science-based product development still has to respect the scientific method and the reproducibility of results remains the most important metric in this process. That’s why they have to be very well documented in internal processes and linked to the progress report so that the final result can be traced back to the primary data set that allowed it to be interpreted.

The final report is like the tip of an iceberg (although the perfect metaphor is an inverted fractal, in which instead of a point leading to different geometries, it is these different fractal dimensions that are concentrated in an artifact: the report), which can be constructed in the form of hypertext, with links to those documents that detail the conclusions or methodology of the experiments.

The structure must be objective and clear

Finally, the structure of the document must allow for 4 different types of reading.

The result should be summarized in one sentence (40-50 words), one paragraph (100-200 words) and one page (500-700 words), with up to one figure and one table. The fourth reading is the supplementary material, linked in the form of hypertext, which allows the reader to delve deeper into methodological details.

Redundancy between sentence, paragraph and page is desirable, it strengthens coherence and comprehension.

This report structure, with its focus on objectivity, conciseness and clarity, takes the burden of understanding the text away from the reader (or manager) and onto the author (or researcher), which is how it should be.

This structure is difficult for academically trained scientists. Firstly because of the lack of practice, since dissertations and theses, with no word limit, allow for abuses in the length of the text that don’t contribute to clarity and objectivity. Secondly, because of the difficulty of giving up the results and details of the experiments which, in their opinion, are what demonstrate their competitive edge. But it is in the interest of the research author, because it favors the reader’s understanding. And what author doesn’t want to be understood?!

Review, validation and application

The transition from peer review to validation by technology is painful for the researcher. The first step is to understand that a reviewer’s opinion, no matter how expert, is not a given. It is not evidence of the scientific method. The greatest validation there can be for a piece of research is its conversion into technology and its

application in the real world