Although I won’t be back in the lab full-time until January, I returned to my old group for a few days last week to work on some papers and to start to catch up with the new science I’ve missed in my two years away.
Back then, I received regular email alerts from high-profile journals letting me know a choice pick of the week or month’s new papers. Over recent months I’ve subscribed again to some of those emails, though I also use Twitter now to keep up with the highlighted papers on an even more immediate basis.
With applications for funding due to be written from day one of my new post, I’m keen to catch up on what I’ve missed. Last Tuesday, I sat down in my old office with a big cup of coffee and started to work through the contents pages of all the issues of a number of high-impact journals from the last two years.
It was a luxury to have a full day where reading in this way could be a priority. Yes, I directed my attention towards the field of surface processes in which my research is based. However, as the day wore on, I realised I was gaining a better overview and sense of direction of the trends than I was ever consciously aware of when I received updates on a daily basis.
Stepping back and looking at papers from the last two years as one collective really made me see the wood for the trees. It has been great to have this opportunity but, as I return to the day-to-day pattern of research, how should I keep the same fresh eyes and sense of the wider picture that I found last week?
The days of browsing through journal contents pages in the library are now behind most of us: how can we achieve an overview as the amount of information we receive increases? Perhaps I should have a rerun of my paper reading day on a six-monthly basis. Just need to find a quiet day with a mug of coffee at the ready.