Why we’re writing “What We’re Reading”

In Episode 36 of the classic comedy television show I Love Lucy, Lucy and her friend Ethel get a job wrapping chocolates in a candy factory. Their boss warns, “If one piece of candy gets past you and into the packing room unwrapped, you’re fired!” Naturally, as the candy conveyer belt moves faster and faster, the women’s efforts to keep up become increasingly and hilariously frantic.

Like Lucy’s chocolates, research articles are coming at us faster and faster at an overwhelming rate. Tools such as Mendeley and PubCrawler can alert you to new publications based on keywords, but an over-reliance on keyword searches can narrow the scope of your reading.

Plant science is a broad discipline and it’s easy to become so immersed in your own organelle, pathway or system that you lose sight of the bigger picture. What We’re Reading was developed to address this breadth issue. We (editor Mary Williams, the Plantae Fellows, and other contributors) survey the newly published plant science literature and monitor social media sites to identify articles we feel are of interest to the wider plant science community. Interestingness is difficult to define: the work’s potential application and impact, novelty, and the quality of the writing and images all contribute to its interestingness. The articles we select are summarized with short synopses that briefly state the big questions, key findings, and relevance. If a summary sends you off to read the article, great. If not, then hopefully it has helped you to maintain your wider perspective on the rapidly developing world of plant science.

We’ve been publishing What We’re Reading every week for six months; so far we have highlighted more than 360 articles. You can access the amalgamated weekly posts (the best way to get your breadth quota) here, but we’re also publishing them as individual searchable summaries here (ideal for when you need to find a paper to present for journal club).

Contributions, either as suggestions of papers to feature or short summaries, are welcomed by email. We also will provide the opportunity for direct contributions to the What We’re Reading series in the newly revamped Plantae community site, due in early June.

We’ve had great feedback about this series, suggesting that it is achieving its objectives, but as always we’d love to hear your thoughts.

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