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Mathias Bader
"It has been shown" or "It was shown" for scientific paper

If something has been discovered in 1980 and I want to refer to this discovery in a scientific text, how would I do this?

    "It has been shown, ..."


    "It was shown, ..."

and especially: Why is one form used over the other?

Mar 11, 2018 8:48 AM
Comments · 6

*The present perfect   - in this case a present perfect passive: "has shown" -  is a form of  present tense. It will always tell you something about the situation at the present time.

*The past tense - in this case a past simple passive: "was shown" - will always tell you something about the past.  There is no connection with the present.

Let's look at your example:

If you  do not specify when this happened, you can use a present perfect "It has been shown...".  This tells us that we are now aware of whatever the discovery revealed, and that this discovery informs our current knowledge.

It's unusual to use the present perfect to talk about a discovery that took place decades ago, but it is possible. It suggests that the discovery has not been superseded by later discoveries.

However, if you say when the discovery took place, you have to use a past tense:

It was shown in 1980.

Note that this is an unbreakable rule - you can never use present perfect when the time is specified. This means that there is a basic grammatical error in your first sentence. We can say "something has been discovered" (without specifying the date) but we cannot say  "something has been discovered in 1980". If you specify the date, you must use a past tense. This rule applies regardless of whether you are speaking or writing, in formal or informal English.

March 11, 2018

Mathias, please don't use this source  or anything written by Nimisha Kaushik.  What she says about English grammar is unhelpful and inaccurate.

March 11, 2018
For it's a scientific paper I vote for past simple as we do not have time duration and we only have a precise year. 
March 11, 2018
It was shown in 1958 by an experiment conducted by ____________ that the thingy does this and that.
It has been shown in 1958 by an experiment conducted by ____________ that the thingy does this and that.

Essentially both say the same and the preferred is whichever you think sounds better but grammatically they are the same.
March 11, 2018
Both are fine, as they convey the same meaning, but if it's a scientific article "It was shown" is usually preferred, simply because it's shorter. Often there is a page limit on articles.
March 11, 2018
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Mathias Bader
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