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Is Science Too Fast for You? How to Keep Yourself Up-to-Date

Written by: Samuel Go

Staying up-to-date on the latest scientific discoveries is an imperative civic duty that applies to all of us, not just scientists, because being scientifically literate allows us to avoid misinformation and instead make informed decisions that can benefit society. The news surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic offers a timely example. If the general public had not known that an N95 mask is the most protective type against the Omicron variant of COVID-19, then the rate of new daily cases in most places would be higher than it is now. If the public believed that hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug, could cure COVID-19, then many more people would have suffered from the health effects of drug misuse than of COVID-19. The importance of keeping up with recent scientific literature is clear, but there are countless papers published in all different fields of science every single day. How can you stay focused on the most important discoveries without overloading yourself and becoming discouraged?


What should I be reading? 

That all depends on your focus. If you want general news on all fields of science, then reading science magazines is the most direct way to obtain that information. If you only want news from a specific field of science, such as the life sciences or physical sciences, then reading subject-specific science magazines or scientific journals may be a more efficient approach. With the latter option though, it can be hard to sift through all the research papers you’ll encounter. Elsevier, one of the largest scientific publishing companies in the world, published 470,000 articles in 2018 alone, but it only houses only 18% of all global research. 

You should also be aware that the subject matter of many new scientific research papers may be quite esoteric, especially if you don’t have advanced knowledge of the scientific discipline at hand. As a beginner scientific reader, it may be wise to start off by reading review articles on a niche topic to familiarize yourself with the subject matter before reading about specific discoveries. For example, if I wanted to learn more about how the lack of specific cell receptors in immune cells could cause herpes simplex encephalitis, then I would look up a few review articles about herpes simplex encephalitis on PubMed before reading research articles about the cell receptors. There are multiple ways to filter through the denseness of scientific research with minimal effort, though.


How should I efficiently filter through the denseness of scientific research?

Depending on your specific scientific interests, you might use a variety of search engines and their email alert systems to notify you about new scientific research. Google Scholar is the most comprehensive search engine for finding scholarly articles from all fields of science. If you have a Google account and are interested in specific research topics, then searching them up and clicking the “Create alert” tool is all you have to do. You will receive an email digest immediately after new research on your topic gets published. Keep in mind that some articles on Google Scholar haven’t been peer-reviewed yet, which means they might not be entirely accurate. If you want to guarantee that all the papers you read are peer-reviewed, your best bet is to read scientific journals from large publishing companies like Elsevier and Springer, which you can access through the IRC’s Databases & E-Journals collection.

Figure 1

An example of a Google Scholar search for HSV-1 encephalitis

Source: Google Scholar 


What are some good sources for high-quality scientific reporting and research?

For general reports, scientific journals like Nature and Science are the go-to sources and are free for IMSA students. Both journals publish weekly magazines that give synopses over newly-published peer-reviewed research in the form of articles. They both also publish specialized journals if you’re interested in a specific field of science, such as medicine, robotics, or environmental science. Nature offers more specialized journals than Science does, which is quite useful if you’re trying to concentrate on a scientific niche, like machine learning, for example. New editions of Nature’s specialized journals are published monthly. If you’re easing into the science world and can’t tackle hardcore research journals yet, high-quality news written for the public like The Economist and National Geographic also offers comprehensive and consistently factual scientific reporting. Keep in mind that they both require you to pay for a personal subscription. For technology-related news geared towards the public, IEEE Spectrum and MIT Technology Review are excellent free periodicals to read. Quanta Magazine is a great resource for familiarizing yourself with physics and computer science breakthroughs before reading the original research papers that their articles are based on.

Figure 2

A snapshot of the plethora of specialized journals under the Nature brand

Source: Nature Portfolio 


Figure 3

All the 2022 editions of Nature Physics as of February 20, 2022

Source: Nature Physics 



There is so much scientific literature being published every day that you couldn’t possibly read it all, but there are also many ways to filter through it all and decide what discoveries are worth your time. Say you want to read about the most groundbreaking scientific discoveries every week. In that case, reading Nature or Science is the way to go. Maybe you’re particularly interested in a specific scientific niche and want to delve into specific research papers on that topic. Google Scholar is the best method of finding scholarly articles. Specialized Nature and Science journals offer a more curated selection of academic papers that you can use as a springboard for further research into your topic of interest. For further reading, check out the references listed below. There is always a resource available online to satisfy your cravings for scientific media. Always consider Hadron whenever you want to find new scientific cravings, too. Bonne lecture!



References and Sources:

IEEE Spectrum. (2022). IEEE Spectrum. Retrieved from

Illinois University Library. (2022, February 11). Peer Review: An Introduction: Why not just use Google or Wikipedia?. Retrieved from,mean%20that%20they%20always%20are

Nature. (2022, February). Volumes. Retrieved from

Nature. (n.d.). Journals A-Z. Retrieved from

Nature Physics. (2022, February). Volume 18. Retrieved from

Our Lady of the Lake University. Q. can I search only peer-reviewed articles in google scholar?. Retrieved from

Pain, E. (2016, November 30). How to keep up with the scientific literature. Science. Retrieved from

Quanta Magazine. (2022). Quanta Magazine. Retrieved from

RELX. (2018). Annual Report and Financial Statements. Retrieved from

Science. (2022, February 18). Archive. Retrieved from

Science. (2022, February 22). Journals. Retrieved from

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