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Never Know What You'll Learn

A post over at Science Careers emphasizes the need for researchers, particularly ones just starting out in their careers, to read a wide variety of journals.

Princeton University's Julian West recounts how he came up with a solution to some issues he and his advisor had run into on a project because he'd read papers from Inorganic Chemistry and the Journal of Physical Chemistry — both outside his field of organic chemistry. Both papers were 20 years or older, he adds.

West says he found these papers because he closely follows what new papers are coming out and reads ones he finds interesting, even if they are outside the scope of his research. He adds that he then traces references back if they also pique his interest, and if he notices that those references are stemming from one journal, he adds it to his stable of journals to follow.

"Perhaps the bigger question is why I make the effort," West writes. "The short answer is that I read widely to prepare myself for whatever might come along in the lab. My biggest fear is the one that got away, the important discovery that I missed because I couldn't see it for what it was."