Finding science information can be a challenge. When you want to find research to use in your work, study, or in your daily life -- or when you are just hungry to satisfy your curiosity about science that’s in the news or on your mind -- it can be difficult to know where to start.
One way to get your footing is to ask yourself, “How would scientists communicate about the question I’m exploring?”
Scientists communicate in lots of ways, so I’ve split them into two big categories: the way scientists communicate amongst themselves, and the way they communicate with the rest of us. In this post, we’ll talk about the first category:
The way scientists talk to each other
At minimum, scientists communicate with colleagues in their field by publishing reports or analyses of their work. A report of this type might appear as an academic paper published in a journal or read at a conference. Generally speaking, formal communication of this sort goes through a peer-review process -- which means that experts and respected colleagues evaluate the paper and give feedback before it is published.
Scientists might also engage in peer-to-peer debate about hot issues of the day -- for example, in person at professional meetings, or in the letters section of a widely-read journal.
Here are some ways to find this type of "by scientists, for scientists" information:
Library subscription resources: Several of the library’s article databases focus on articles from peer-reviewed journals, and include some on various science topics. JSTOR, Academic OneFile, Academic Search Premier, Health Reference Center Academic and Health Source Nursing/Academic Edition are all good places to start.
Open-access journals are peer-reviewed, academic publications that are free to anyone to read. One well-known publisher of open-access journals is the Public Library of Science (PLOS): they put out a series of peer-reviewed journals in science and medicine. These journals and all the articles in them are free for anyone to read. Find other open-access journals with the Directory of Open Access Journals, where you can search by word or browse the journals in your discipline of interest.
Are you looking for medical information? The National Institutes of Health and the U.S. National Library of Medicine run a free online medicine database called PubMed. It is possibly the most comprehensive database of peer-reviewed medical articles there is. Most of the articles you’ll find in PubMed aren’t full-text or open access -- meaning, you can’t read the article right there, right away. But the library can get most articles for you! Contact a librarian to get help finding a copy of the article you want to read.
Science research organizations at universities or government agencies often publish scientific papers, reports, or open data sets. Some great examples are the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (hosted at the Earth Institute at Columbia University) and the U.S. Forest Service Research and Development.
Now you should have a good start finding research, data, and information that scientists share with each other. Next time, I’ll share some resources you can use to find science information that is published specifically for laypersons -- that’s us non-scientists!
In the meantime, don’t forget that librarians are always happy to help you with your questions and research needs -- whether they’re science-related or not! So ask the librarian on duty the next time you’re at the library, or call or email us anytime.