Bob Dylan
Five academics have been taking part in a long-running bet to insert Bob Dylan lyrics into research articles Getty

Five Swedish academics have been inserting Bob Dylan lyrics into research papers as part of a 17-year race to quote the musician as many times as possible before retirement.

The bet began in 1997 when John Lundberg and Eddie Weitzberg, professors from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, wrote an article for Nature journal called Nitric Oxide and Inflammation: The Answer is Blowing in the Wind.

"We both really like Bob Dylan so when we set about writing an article concerning the measurement of nitric oxide gas in both the respiratory tracts and the intestine ... the title came up and it fitted there perfectly," Weitzberg explained.

A couple of years later, a librarian pointed out that two other medical professors, Jonas Frisén and Konstantinos Meletis, had also used different Dylan references in a 2003 article about the ability of non-neural cells to generate neurons, called Blood on the Tracks: A Simple Twist of Fate?

Soon after, Lundberg and Weitzberg took the idea to the next level, competing with Frisén and Meletis to see who could sneak the most Bob Dylan lyrics into their articles before retirement.

"The one who has written most articles with Dylan quotes, before going into retirement, wins a lunch at the local restaurant Jöns Jacob," Lundberg said.

"We're not talking about scientific papers – we could have got in trouble for that – but rather articles we have written about research by others, book introductions, editorials and things like that," Weitzberg told the news website The Local.

Before long, a fifth competitor joined the race. By the time he joined the bet, Kenneth Chien, a professor of cardiovascular research at the institute, already had a Dylan-referenced paper to his name: Tangled Up in Blue: Molecular Cardiology in the Postmolecular Era, published in 1998.

Between the five scientists, a number of articles were published with Dylan references, including Lundberg and Weitzberg's 2009 The Biological Role of Nitrate and Nitrite: The Times They Are a-Changin' and 2011's Dietary Nitrate – A Slow Train Coming.

Weitzberg added that although he believes Dylan should win the nobel prize for literature, he is realistic about his scientific career.

"I would much rather become famous for my scientific work than for my Bob Dylan quotes," laughed Weitzberg. "But yes, I am enjoying this!"