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When research results concerning occupational health are expressed ambiguously, compensation and prevention can be affected. This study examined the language used by scientists to discuss the relation between work and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).Language regarding work and MSDs in twenty articles from two peer-reviewed journals was compared with that in 94 messages on MSDs posted by published scientists to an internet list.Almost all the articles found some link between work and MSDs. However, few articles expressed belief in such a link unambiguously in the title or abstract, and language on links was often hard for a non-health scientist to interpret. Language and methods gave excess weight to negative results. On the listserve, many scientists expressed unambiguous views on linkages between work and MSDs.Scientists must express their opinions more forthrightly if they wish their results to be used to favour prevention and to foster access to workers' compensation Am. J. Ind. Med. 51:173–185, 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.