27 and a PhD

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Daily Archives: January 23, 2012


Reading papers

…. Or not. This am, Cackle’s post on reading papers, based on Scicurious’s entry on the same topic, caught my attention. I can’t lie (well, about reading, anyway). I simply don’t read. Even though I was almost peeing in my pants when I got the job that got me back into my former field of training (I should start calling it FFT, not to be confused with fast Fourier transform), I have yet to read the latest and hottest in the field. I don’t read a single paper a week, and haven’t done for a while. There, I said it. I know, I’m a failure. But hey! isn’t admitting one’s shortcomings the first step?

When I was an undergrad I usually read a couple of papers a week papers, just because I was trying to make sense of what I was doing. In grad school, my FFT was somewhat small, and whenever a new paper came out, the boss would automatically email  it to everyone. We wouldn’t usually discuss it, unless we specifically used it in a paper or grant. Nor did we have regular journal clubs. And I was thankful for that (I know, bad, bad, horrible habit). It wasn’t part of our lab culture (I know, lame-ass excuse for not having regularly scheduled paper discussions). And eventually I understood when one of my fellow labbies said (to my question about reading papers in the lab) that she barely had time to  read, after the insane amounts of data she was churning out (I became like her after she left). We would occasionally, over lunch or sometimes via email, mention some brief points, about new papers and we always made a point of stopping by the sections/talks of people in the field (regardless or how hot or not was their research) during society meetings. But other than that, there wasn’t as much emphasis on reading and discussing papers. Same thing when I was an undergrad, though that apparently changed a couple of months before I left.

Then in my (rather brief) postdoc, my boss set up keyword alerts for the papers in our field, which he would forward to lab peeps, depending on the project. Our lab had at least 3 different areas of research going on, so he would forward said papers to the interested subset of labbies. We did start to have lab meeting soon after I joined (a tradition which had not been going on for a few years) and the boss encouraged peeps to present summaries of papers or present recent results during the meeting. I can’t remember if I ever presented a paper, I mostly talked about failed experiments and crappy results, up until the week I was gone.

Institutional access at my current place of work is rather limited. Thus, I can’t always count on having the latest available research at my fingertips. And I can’t even do an #Icanhaspdf, because the last 6 months have been mostly a blur (between people quitting, new people wanting to start projects and requiring more time than we have, it’s a miracle I get to sit sometimes).

I did audit a class last year and attended a couple of paper discussions, but some of the papers were methodology-type papers, and that would cover a wide range of time, from the very first papers published about the techniques (my parents were probably not even born) to some somewhat recent ones. I did try to read them as much as I could (starting with the abstract, reading all the figures and conclusion, and if I had enough interest, I’d check out the supplementary materials (holy crap Science, why the hell is more than half of your papers published in the supp. materials, WTH???).

I didn’t include catching up with the literature this semester, because we’re still short-staffed … hopefully if/when we get a new staff minion I’ll have some time off to check out my fave journos and catch up on what I’ve missed.

*Le sigh*