Keeping Up: Tips for Managing Science Reading

Keeping up with new findings is constantly becoming more difficult with the rate of publication in just cognitive neuroscience increasing by over 200 per year, with an overall increase of 2333 over the last ten years  (see figure below). I will briefly describe some methods I’ve recently discovered to help deal with this onslaught of new information.

I have found that using a combination of computer applications and websites can be effective for keeping up with science readings.

The websites are useful for searching and subscribing to syndicated (RSS) feeds. The applications are useful for organizing articles.

Websites for searching

Google Scholar
This website is extremely useful for exploring a comprehensive collection of research on a particular topic. It uses Google’s legendary indexing algorithms to make keyword searching a breeze, while browsing citation links can reveal a chain of publications on a topic. It’s also useful because citations can be quickly imported into programs like EndNote, and articles that are often unavailable on other websites are made available via Google’s indexing.

Scopus is “the largest abstract and citation database of research literature and quality web sources”. It’s very useful for seeing all the papers that have cited a particular article, and all the papers that article has cited. Google Scholar also has this feature, but in my experience there are more false-positives than with Scopus. The consistent link, citation, and abstract-viewing interface makes Scopus often more effective than Google Scholar.

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Fair Use and Legal Intimidation in Science

Shelley Batts’s Retrospectacle neuroscience blog recently got hit with a legal threat from journal publisher Wiley for posting some graphs from a recently published article.

This request amounts to underhanded legal intimidation as using these graphs clearly falls under fair use. Shelley had clearly cited the source of the graph and accurately reported the results.

What might be their motivation for the legal threat? According to this comment by Shelley: “I think perhaps what the real issue here is that they were afraid I might bust their ‘press bubble.’ This study has been used as a justification for ‘fruity alcoholic drinks are health food’ and the spin was so ubiquitious throughout news venues it obviously was released that way. The real results do not support that conclusion.”
Many across the blogosphere have chimed in to support Shelley, and I’d like to be counted as one of them.

Science is about openness and sharing knowledge for the higher good of scientific progress. It’s perhaps telling that the legal threats included the parent company’s slogan “SCI – where science meets business”. They’re apparently too caught up in the business side of things, where legal threats for knowledge sharing are the norm.

Update: The disagreement with Wiley has been resolved.