Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Diversify your reading!

Professor Steve Jones in Connected complains that science writers need to broaden their horizons. Glancing this week through newspapers in English, French and German, he sees the same major science stories appearing again and again. He also makes the very interesting observation that the primary research in many cases originated in Nature , by most measures the world's premiere general science journal:

A glance at this week's newspapers and popular science magazines shows just how wide a range there is: global warming killing off frogs, new methods for generating stem cells, plants that make methane, and what space dust might tell us about the origin of the Universe.Those stories are interesting, varied and up-to-date; but they all share a hidden thread that links - or entangles - everyone who writes about science, for each of them first appeared in Nature.

Jones goes through a list of a huge trove of sources for interesting science available on the web: the Public Library of Science, the free side of highwire press (note: link was dead at the time of writing), and Google scholar. I would add to this list Wikipedia or Google itself.

While of course there are many sources (and "science" sections of newspapers are frequently just dumps of the AP wire) I think that Nature really does deserve special reading attention. For me, Nature is a brand name telling me that what's inside is very interesting to many people and has also been carefully reviewed. (the same goes for Science). As I often post well outside my expertise, I rely on the editors that the main premise of the paper I'm reading is at least self-consistent. It takes long enough to understand the stuff! And Google Scholar can turn up a lot of dodgy stuff especially with specialized searches.

With that said, right this second I'm reading in PLoS about goldfish longevity and its relevance to humans. Very, very cool.

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