I’m currently reviewing a paper for a journal, which brings forth in spades another linguistic detail that should (and, easily can) be avoided. I am, of course, not going to reveal which paper or which journal – that would go agains the code-of-ethics for reviewing academic papers (which, sadly, not all publication houses respect), so I hit up my favorite search engine for a public example, and the first result was from this paper (which I haste to say is otherwise interesting):
This section focuses on another aspect of Pastry’s routing performance, namely its properties with respect to locality. We will show that the route chosen for a message is likely to be “good” with respect to the proximity metric…
The next example is from this paper (which I didn’t actually read beyond the abstract):
Emphasis is, in both cases, mine. “Focuses on something” means “to give of attention to” that something – and choosing to do so (or not) is an act that requires awareness, and the ability to make a choice.
Thus, the authors of a paper, or of a section, can chose – in their study, or in their writing – to focus on something specific. I don’t suspect (even with the hypothesis of development of universal AI) that “sentience” is going to be an attribute associated with a section in a paper: it simply reports what the authors have written – which, of course, will be reflective of what the authors have focused on.
It’s an easy rephrasing to avoid ascribing sentience to sections and papers – for example:
This section presents a study of another aspect of Pastry’s routing performance, namely its properties with respect to locality. It will also show that the route chosen for a message is likely to be “good” with respect to the proximity metric…
As I have written before, while I do try to instil these writing habits into my own students, and endeavour to respect them in papers to (co-) author, I am an engineer…so, I “play the ball, not the (wo)man”: when reviewing a paper and recommending acceptance or publication, I focus on only the scientific content.