Keep A Tab On Scientific Journals With Google Reader
[Note the above picture should have been used for "Going paperless". A post, from our very own FirasM. We we are still waiting for it!]
(update 21/09/2010 I just realized that this was a more appropriate title than the previous one)
If you feel as though Google products (Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Maps, Picasa, Google Earth YouTube) are dominating your life, stop and think for a second... they are! And if you believe like me in all the cospiracy theories about how Google may one day use all the information stored in its databases to control our minds and destroy far away planets, but yet you still can't do without your Gmail and Google Calendar here's yet another product from (the 'axis of evil') the ubiquitous tech giant that will help keeping up with the research publications in your field. Google Reader is a Web-based aggregator, capable of reading RSS feeds online.
If I just lost you don't worry, you don't need to know the technical details so I'm not going to talk about RSS and how it works (for that you can use "the student's best friend" Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rss) but just think of it as a Facebook-like wall of your favorite website or blog, where each 'status updates' corresponds to the title of a new article or post.
Google Reader is extremely simple to set up. Log in into your Gmail account and on the top tab click 'Reader' follow the instructions to activate your Reader account. As an alternative you can go to www.google.com/reader and log in with your Gmail user name. If you don't have a Google account you can easily register one (I hear there are people out there still using Hotmail or even something called Yahoo mail).
Now that you have your account set up, and you are ready to take charge of your life and all the scientific papers; the next step is easy: go to your favourite scientific journal and on the top corner you will notice an orange or blue icon with symbol of a radar: thats an RSS feed symbol. If the website in question doesn't have an RSS symbol you are out of luck. The RSS symbol means that the website broadcasts in real-time new contents. After you click on the symbol you will generally be redirected to Google Reader where you can add your new feed (see/click on image above).
Once you have a nice collection of feeds you will get into the habit of checking for new unread feeds. Google reader nicely highlights and displays the number of unread feeds.
The reason I enjoy using Google Reader is because it allows to quickly sift through tens, sometime hundreds of new articles and by displaying the title and an excerpt of the abstract (or the whole abstract), you can quickly decide whether to read the whole journal article or not. Additionally, with your RSS reader you can mark an article as favorite, share it, email it or archive it for later reading.
If you have an iPhone (or a Google Phone, I guess) then life gets even easier as you can catch up on your RSS feeds on the go, below are a few screenshots.