I’ve decided that the answer is nothing. It’s fine.
In fact, after you become accustomed to reading studies like this written in a much more modern active tone, articles written in the conventional way sound borderline ridiculous. That is, strict adherence to the passive voice and the strange use of "we" by a sole author...these practices can read pretty ridiculous.
People complain about how awkward scientific writing is, so that’s one count against it. But beyond inconvenience there’s another problem with conventions of scientific writing.... their dehumanization of science.
This third person passive "rule" was supposedly sparked by Francis Bacon to inject objectivity into scientific writing. But does it really do that? I’m inclined to think it's also likely to obscure objectivity by hiding weak or shoddy research in something larger, in something less accountable.
By sticking to the first person active perspective, you’re reminding yourself along with everyone who reads your study that a human with limits and biases performed it. This is fair, open, forthcoming, and can be very honest and humbling (depending on the author)… all these are beloved virtues of science and scientists.
But transform an active, first person article into one with only a passive voice and the science reads like it's above and beyond mortal human business... as if an external force guided the author to do the research or that she's merely the recorder of a supernatural science project that was magically conjured in her laboratory.
|"The experiment performed itself!"|
By dropping the third person passive voice, scientists can avoid giving the impression that their work transcends earthly constraints and that it is greater than what a human (or a mere first person) is capable of.
Scientists are science-doers, not science-whisperers and they should be able to report their work as objectively as possible, as close to reality as possible, not according to this or that grammatical preference.
I'm not sure very many MT readers (including myself, tomorrow) are going to agree with this post, but this is something I'm thinking about today.