Contemporary Approaches to Keeping Up With The Scientific Literature
My article, an invited contribution, on contemporary approaches to keeping up with the literature, addresses teaching and research, review articles, social media, and critique of the scientific literature.
The accelerating pace of scientific advances and the rapid inflation in the publication universe pose daunting challenges to anyone who wishes to remain informed about the latest findings and hypotheses. Although there are many possible approaches, it might be valuable to examine this problem in the particular context of the opportunities and costs of technological innovation.
The development of an authentic capacity for keeping abreast of the latest literature is an excellent manifestation of the mutual reinforcement of teaching and conducting thoughtful research.
done properly, review articles provide a comprehensive overview of a field, supply a critical perspective on the literature, synthesise the existing data into a model, and propose testable hypotheses and avenues of future investigation. Crafting such an article forces the writer to read broadly and deeply, and is a gift to readers struggling to stay afloat in the sea of articles.
It must be recognised that maintenance of the integrity of the literature is, increasingly, a cooperative endeavour. What we read, how we read it and, crucially, what we recommend have an impact on others. We should, for example, resist the urge to promote research results that we have not personally evaluated.
The scientific literature, like science itself, has always been dynamic. Reinterpretation of the significance of earlier published results has been a constant feature of research articles. However, in the decades before the advent of the internet, a certain ossification set in, such that challenging articles by prominent researchers became considered undignified behaviour. Now, the scientific corpus has been revivified as a conversation rather than persisting as a soliloquy, and that is good.
Some of the most interesting reading consists of critiques of articles, peer review and journals. Frequently, understanding a paper's analysis requires the reader to learn about subjects or techniques of which they would otherwise have been relatively ignorant, but this has benefits for the reader's teaching, research and, indeed, future reading. True scientists constantly re-evaluate their sources of knowledge, and contemplate whether there may be better means for obtaining and sharing insight.
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