Journal club

It’s not unusual for researchers, especially PhD students and post docs, to run journal clubs. Every week, or two weeks, or whatever, someone chooses a paper and everyone reads it. Then you all get together to talk about it.


This is widely accepted as a good thing. It helps you keep on top of the literature and to make sure that you all understand it. They often fall apart though, because academics are busy and it’s not uncommon for people to not bother reading, or to leave it to the last minutes, or to not bother showing up.

I’ve not been involved with one. I suggested setting one up in first year but it never quite happened. However, the number of people working in my research area alongside me has increased since then and a while back one of the other PhD students suggested we get this going. To my disappointment, everyone agreed.

Yeah, I was disappointed. I’ve got a thesis to write and the last of my dadta to get an analyse. I couldn’t decline though, because it is actually a good thing to do and because, quite likely, most of the papers chosen will be referenced in my thesis anyway. So, I agreed, expecting it to fall apart after a few weeks anyway.

So far we’ve had x meetings. So far, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. All the papers chosen have been interesting and useful, the meetings have also been interesting and useful (and have sometimes included cake) and I’m actually starting to look forward to them. I was wrong, you guys, I was very wrong.

I reckon it’s because we all work so closely together. We’re all interested in the same subset of a subset of a subset or research. We’re also all very busy. So no one’s going to chose that 45 page irrelevant review paper, we’re all choosing short-ish papers with immediate relevance. We have time to read them and we learn valuable stuff when we do. This is journal club done right.

So, if you’re thinking of setting one up I recommend keeping it small – probably no more than about 6 people – and keeping it relevant. If you’re already involved with one and it’s falling apart, try bringing it it back by insisting on relevant, recent papers that are 8 pages or less. If that fails, insist on cake.

Originally posted here:


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