Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Physics: Spotlighting Exceptional Research

After a week full of talks discussing problems of information and knowledge management in the age of infotainment and information overflow, today I get an email from the APS announcing the launch of “Physics” (note the unique creativity of the name), a free online publication dedicated to “spotlight” what you really need to know, to put specialized papers in a broader context, and to provide reviews:
“Physicists are drowning in a flood of research papers in their own fields and coping with an even larger deluge in other areas of physics. The Physical Review journals alone published over 18,000 papers last year. How can an active researcher stay informed about the most important developments in physics?”

Yeah good question. By reading blogs maybe? ;-)

Either way, they offer three types of articles:
  • “Viewpoints” are essays of approximately 1000–1500 words that focus on a single Physical Review paper or PRL letter and put this work into broader context.
  • “Trends” are concise review articles (3000–4000 words in length) that survey a particular area and look for interesting developments in that field.
  • “Synopses” (200 words) are staff-written distillations of interesting and important papers each week.

In addition, they intend to publish selected letters to the editor to allow readers a chance to comment on the commentaries and summaries.

My comment is that they've correctly identified the need to filter a vast amount of information in a sensible way, I welcome the effort very much and wish them good luck. They should do something about the title though, it's absolutely ungoogleable.


  1. Phys. Rev. published 18,000 highest quality greatest importance papers. Contingent progress? PERT-charted discovery is least publishable bits. 18,000 papers @ 5 min/paper = 1500 hrs of 2040 hrs work year.

    Angew. Chemie is hot and flavorful for chemists. JACS is mostly cold oatmeal. A long period of stupid DNA tricks was waste paper. Now it's PowerPointed distraction - decorated bottle washing.

    Does grant funding have a goal beyond self-congratulation?

  2. Ah, funny - I was about to write a short note about this.

    I like it, it's a bit in the style of the "News and Views" sections in Nature or the "Perspectives" in Science - written by scientists working in the field, but with a general "scientist reader" in mind. And the best thing, it's freely accessible for everyone.

    Cheers, Stefan

  3. Hi,

    I think too that this is a very good idea by Physical Review.

    My policy concerning getting involved in new issues has been often through Rev. Mod. Phys. articles. However it is not that easy to relate them to work in other fields, because sometimes these articles appear also to specialized.


  4. Hi Bee,

    Thanks for the heads up on this one. This is just the sort of thing that not only you pros can find helpful yet also us fascinated novices. I’ve already read one write-up entitled "Light Finds its Way Through a Maze" regarding an experiment where the researchers (I. M. Vellekoop and A. P. Mosk) used what they refer to as wave shaping to increase light’s transmission through a highly opaque material. The reviewer’s synopsis is very readable and gives a link to the paper and I can’t believe it’s free to down load.

    With all the attention given to finding a theory of Quantum Gravity it is often forgotten that not all the wrinkles are worked out in QED or even plain old QM. Neat stuff that now I’ll have to explore to see if I can get my head around it.



  5. To be precise, APS Physics is free this year. Next year there may be subscription fees as must cost a lot to produce.

  6. ::snicker::
    So the solution to scientists having too much to read is more stuff to read. Let me know how that works out...


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