How do I get into following academic publishing?
August 17, 2014 1:52 AM   Subscribe

What ways exist where would one keep up with big ideas or events in the academic publishing world, in some kind of passive way that involves me regularly checking in and picking out what's interesting and saving those for later.

I figure there is just too much information out there for even a river news feed, and that no feed exists anyway. I imagine you'd subscribe to big things like Nature and Science, and maybe check out bibliographies on things you read that are interesting. Then there are massive databases you can search.

Or should I just be fine with when popular news reports that a study happened, and summarizes it?
posted by dubadubowbow to Society & Culture (7 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I think there are roughly three kinds of resource for this kind of thing.
1. specialist subject academic journals and discussion forums
2. high quality media that digests material from the above and presents interesting and relevant material over a range of topics in a comprehensive form for the layperson.
3. media and other forums where the main interest is in generating attention, and the subject matter is presented primarily for that purpose.

Find the #2s. And if something piques your interest, chase up the report and follow the references to learn from more original sources.
posted by Kerasia at 4:31 AM on August 17, 2014

I like Kerasia's approach, but there's also something between 1 and 2. Some journals, like Nature have extensive front sections of science news and comment. It's frequent, the articles are brief and accurate, and cover all areas of science. They aren't written for laypeople, but they are written so that scientists in totally unrelated fields can understand.

Or should I just be fine with when popular news reports that a study happened, and summarizes it?

If you want to understand a particular study better, there are a couple of good options. First, high-profile journals will often have a "News and Views" section in the front, and they will discuss the implications of articles there in an accurate and accessible way. The other is to read the actual article.
posted by grouse at 5:09 AM on August 17, 2014

I think sharing why you want to do this will help folks answer the question better. "Academic publishing" is huge, and 99.9% of articles published are of zero interest to anyone who doesn't work in whatever little tiny field they are in (and many of those aren't even of interest to people in the field--there's a lot of garbage being published that nobody reads).

I'm guessing that your primary interest is just in knowing about big recent discoveries (in every area?). As grouse suggests, browsing the front material of Science and Nature every week will get you a lot. For the lay person, reading the actual peer-reviewed articles in Science and Nature is not going to be very useful--those journals in particular have a preferred house style that is very reader hostile. And, of course, there are many areas of science that do not get published in Science or Nature because they are not nearly sexy enough.

There are also many, many science blogs in the world that highlight recent articles--pretty much all of them will focus on the narrow area of expertise of the blogger. Two of the bigger 'big tent' science blogging sites are Scientific American Blogs and Science Blogs. There are also subspecialty blog networks of all sorts.

If you're asking how do scientists keep up with the literature: like most scientists, I subscribe to journal alerts for the specific major journals of my subspecialty (for me, Ecology, Ecological Applications, Freshwater Science, Freshwater Biology, JGR Biogeosciences, and Limnology and Oceanography). Those journals will cover the vast majority of what I am interested in--work in my field is rarely published in Science or Nature. I quickly scan them and download anything I want to read later. I do pay attention to what's cited in articles I read (and download those for later), and from time to time I do a Google Scholar search on specific keywords to make sure I haven't missed anything important.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:35 AM on August 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you want to keep up to date with the academic debate in a particular general area with no prior topic knowledge you should probably:
1) find the relevant Oxford Bibliography
2) Note the journals where important stuff has come out in the last 10 years and subscribe to them
3) Set up google scholar keyword alerts and also do google scholar searches every few months for relevant terms

But you are not going to understand the articles or their significance without prior knowledge, and most of the reportage of those article will be poor to actively misleading.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 5:50 AM on August 17, 2014

One thing you can do is, once you find a particular publisher that produces work of interest to you, subscribe to their publications catalog. For instance, MIT Press has a great general catalog, and a bunch of catalogs focussing on specific disciplines.

They are not going to be the bleeding cutting-edge, but they'll do a great job of showing current work being done in a given field of inquiry.

You can, of course, browse them online. But if you subscribe, then you don't have to remember it. They just show up in your mail box every season.
posted by jammy at 6:11 AM on August 17, 2014

If you're interested in academic publishing in the social sciences and the humanities, then what you want is SSRN.
posted by modernnomad at 6:27 AM on August 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

modernnomad is right. I was assuming from your mention of Science and Nature and your tags that you are primarily interested in the scientific literature. My advice is not relevant if you are interested in other fields.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:29 AM on August 17, 2014

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