On keeping abreast of the literature: A highly loaded poll question

Once I get a fair number of responses I'll put my real thoughts in the comments...

25 responses so far

  • I don't work in the medical micro field any longer so I get all of my literature briefs through SCOPUS (used to be I would go to PubMed). I do several keyword searches (and their close derivatives) biweekly (usually) to find the newest literature. This way I hit every journal registered with SCOPUS (which is 99.9% of them).

  • Namnezia says:

    Everyone in my lab has 1 or 2 journals assigned to them. Once a month during lab meeting everyone is to report on relevant papers that appeared in their journals that month. For lab newbies I usually assign Science or Nature and tell them to report on anything related to Neuroscience. More experienced lab members report on the more specialized journals.

  • Table of Contents RSS feeds and PubCrawler FTW!

  • I have a certain set of specialized journals I check the ToC for but I also have multiple topic searches in PubMed that report back to weekly. Then once a month our lab also does a lightning round literature discussion where folks have 5 minutes to sell you on why you should read this new paper.

  • I skim the TOCs of about ten journals. The rest I get from my trainees or through casual dicussion. I find it actually more useful to look at ProjectReporter to see what people are up to *before* it gets published. By the time it's published, I've almost always already heard about it.

    Incidentally, another interesting question is how many actual papers people read. I "read" almost none, unless you count forwarding the link to one of my trainees and then asking them a few days later to explain it to me as "reading".

  • becca says:

    Entire journal RSS feeds of Cell/Nature/Science/Nature Immunology/JBC/J. Cell Biology/malaria blogs/PNAS/J. Immunology;

    FB friend: J. Cell Biology

    PubMed search term RSS feeds on my google homepage

    PubMed search term email alerts for certain authors

    Browsing physical journal: Nature, Cell, BioTechniques

  • Nat says:

    I use both RSS feeds on select topic keywords, as well as maybe 5-6 journal table of contents. There are a few author based RSS feeds as well, to keep me up on what a few of my friends are up to.

    CPP has a good point about "reading". Since I don't have underlings, I can't use the "ask the trainee" version (actually, none of my advisors have ever done that). At best, I'll do the "scan the abstract, look over the figures" routine initially. Anything really pertinent may get the full read, but that's pretty rare these days.

  • bsci says:

    I have RSS feeds of tables of contents mostly of my subfield journals. While I skim the top journals, I generally hear about relevant articles in them from others. I also have RSS feeds for citations of all my publications. This has less to do with my ego than the simple fact that a large portion of people who liked my work enough to cite it are doing things that interest me. Those searches sometimes bring up good articles in journals that I don't regularly browse and reference more good articles.

    Now that I'm writing this, I find that tracking down references from cool conference presentations has a major role in filling in gaps of things I've overlooked.

    Of course this whole question assumes people are keeping abreast of the literature. If you have time to read all the papers you want to read, your interests are too focused. 🙂

  • I get headlines of 10 or so discipline-specific journals via RSS in Google Reader, and I also have google scholar alerts set up to let me know by email whenever a new paper cites one of a handful of key papers in my specific research area.

    I keep up on new papers in other fields more broadly by seeing what people are blogging about.

  • neuromusic says:

    does @drugmonkey have any polls that aren't "highly loaded"?

    🙂

  • drugmonkey says:

    Hahahaahhahahahaa. Well spotted, neuromusic.

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Drug Monkey and Christina K. Pikas, ScientopiaBlogs. ScientopiaBlogs said: On keeping abreast of the literature: A highly loaded poll question http://dlvr.it/65Stf [...]

  • drugmonkey says:

    Current list of "Other" responses includes:
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    Google Reader

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    pubcrawler

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    blogs like yours...much more fun to read than content lists!

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    the journals I happen to get in the mail whatever papers people send along.

    -
    RSS feed

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    Web of science

    -
    These are all passive choices, dude!

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    Trolling the list of abstracts posted to the arXiv that morning

    -
    reading blogs

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    various keyword feeds, and several interest fora (like alzforums)

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    TOC alerts from a wide variety of journals (topic, method, i.f.)

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    RSS feed of articles filtered from Top Journals and specialized journals

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    Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook, blogs

    -
    google scholar

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    I get all of the above and read it.

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    A combination of TOC RSS feeds and RSS feeds of articles citing my publications

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    all of the above

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    panicked reading spurred by writing articles/grants

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    Monthly lab roundup of relevant papers from a wide range of journals.

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    Scopus

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    RSS feeds from top journals

    -
    alerts from specific journals and citation alerts for key papers in the field

  • drugmonkey says:

    Okay, thanks for playing folks!

    My motivating point was simple. Anyone who is keeping abreast of the literature only by reading the TOC of a small subset of journals (particularly when they are GlamourMags) is not a serious scientist. Their interest is not driven by a science topic or question of any legitimacy. It is driven by a desire to "be in the field", or be a GlamourScientistELEVEN!! This is not scholarship.

    Topic based searches and alerts are the thing.

    This idea of following citations of a "few key papers" intrigues me. I wonder the degree to which it picks up things that the broad topic keyword alert does not?

  • Namnezia says:

    @DM: That was the big insight? I think that from your poll and the comments it's fairly clear that only very few people only read the TOC's of glamour journals.

    I have another question - at which point would you differentiate between a glamour journal and a second-tier journal? By glamour do you just mean Science, Nature, Cell or does it extend below to say Nature Neuroscience or Neuron?

  • drugmonkey says:

    "insight"? no. it was the stepping off point for me being irritated about a conversation in another venue in which it was clear that there were people being trained to just pay attention to GlamourMags. Pfah!

    The "insight" is provided by what the commentariat has to say about the topic....

    I don't really draw hard distinctions about what represents a GlamourMag and I've mostly abandoned my prior practice of just saying CNS. Is it critical? *My* distinction about what is and is not a GlamourMag?

  • Anyone who is keeping abreast of the literature only by reading the TOC of a small subset of journals (particularly when they are GlamourMags) is not a serious scientist. Their interest is not driven by a science topic or question of any legitimacy. It is driven by a desire to “be in the field”, or be a GlamourScientistELEVEN!! This is not scholarship.

    Bullshit. It's just a type of scholarship that is not to your taste.

  • drugmonkey says:

    it is a type of *career pursuit* that is not to my taste. It still isn't scholarship.

  • By what discernable standard is that kind of approach "not scholarship"? (The extent to which your biases might make you dislike it doesn't count.)

  • Neuro-conservative says:

    Uh, none of the choices in the poll represents anything close to "scholarship." At best they represent efficient ways to keep your head above water, but true scholarship requires a more active stance towards the literature, unless you are engaged in some tiny, incestuous, and ultimately pointless subfield.

  • juniorprof says:

    Gotta agree with NC here (though it pains me).

  • drugmonkey says:

    but true scholarship requires a more active stance towards the literature

    I don't believe I suggested that any of these techniques for keeping abreast of the literature are in and of themselves scholarship, N-c and juniorprof.

    By what discernable standard is that kind of approach “not scholarship”?

    By the standard which views scholarship as delving deeply and widely into a topic, linking it securely to prior work and allowing it to be confidently linked to subsequent work. Building knowledge, filling in the gaps (oneself, instead of airily dismissing that as the job of the little people), maintaining a sustained focus on a definable topic. Above all else having the primary motivation of contributing as much as possible to the archival record, rather than burying tons of work and data (that someone else then goes on to repeat in whole or part) because it is insufficiently hot for GlamorPubs.

    As you know perfectly well, I am not suggesting that the mere fact of publishing in a GlamourMag makes you unscholarly. I am just suggesting that when the focus is primarily to publish in those types of journals, this almost inevitably forces a lab away from scholarly investigation.

    Question for you, PP...why would you take umbrage at these practices being described as not scholarly? If it is only a matter of "taste" who cares what it is called?

  • As you know perfectly well, I am not suggesting that the mere fact of publishing in a GlamourMag makes you unscholarly. I am just suggesting that when the focus is primarily to publish in those types of journals, this almost inevitably forces a lab away from scholarly investigation.

    Whoah, whoah, whoah. Dude, I think you lost the trail here. We're talking about *reading* journals, not publishing in journals.

    And personally, I don't give a flying fucke what you choose to call anyfuckingthing. But since you're throwing around the word "unscholarly" as a pejorative, I figure it's worth unpacking exactly what the fucke you're talking about.

  • ginger says:

    Nobody keeps abreast of the literature *just* by reading TOC of a small subset of journals. You asked for the primary method and you offered only passive choices. It's the poll that's the problem, here, not the scholarship of your readers.

    On the bright side you did shame me into starting RSS feeds for the medical glamourmags and for my subfield. (Yeah, yeah, I changed e-mail addresses, and besides e-mail digests are so 2000.)

  • [...] Drugmonkey polled his readers a while back on how they keep abreast of the literature. The responses (summarized here) include everything from tools like pubcrawler to relying on [...]

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