Creating a Journal Club With Google Reader

One of the challenges of working in an industry that moves at the speed of light is keeping up with all of the changes.  I mentioned to a several friends of mine that I’m a heavy user of Google Reader and we decided to form a Journal Club.  A Journal Club is a way for students to share the burden of reading and reviewing a number of journal articles.  Here’s how it works: 

Subscribing to RSS Feeds and Searches
The first step is to subscribe to the RSS feeds for the journals that you’re interested in.  Most journals and industry news sites have their own RSS feeds to keep you appraised of the latest articles.  Nature journals have both an AOP (Advance Of Print) feed, and the normal feed.  The AOP feed tells you about papers that will be published shortly.

You can also save PubMed searches as RSS feeds.  In the “Send To” list box, you select “RSS Feed”

The following page appears, which allows you to confirm that you want to create an RSS feed from this search:

You click the “Create Feed” button and an orange RSS/XML button appears.  Right-click on the button and (if you’re using FireFox) select the “Copy Link Location” menu item.

Sharing The RSS Feeds
You can then return to Google Reader and select “Add A Subscription”.  Once you’ve collected the feeds that you want to use, you need to share them with the people in your Journal club.  You can export your feed subscriptions as an OPML (Outline Processor Markup Language) file.  You may want to edit this file down to the essential feeds that you want to share.  I have friends that are interested in bioinformatics and cheminformatics, others who are interested in agile development, or Java, so I tailor the OPML to suit their tastes.  You then send the OPML file to the members of your Journal club and they can import the file into their Google Reader accounts.  This cuts down on the amount of work necessary to subscribe to a large number of journals.  To export/import OPML files:

  1. Go to Google Reader’s “Settings” (that’s the link in the upper right corner of the screen.
  2. Click on the “Import/Export” tab.
  3. Click the “Export your subscriptions as OPML” link and save the file to your desktop.

Sharing Articles
Now that everyone has the same set of subscriptions you can start to share the articles themselves.  As you start reviewing your feeds, you can “star” articles that you’re interested in.  To share them with the group, click the “Share” link at the bottom of the article.  You can also comment and tag articles.  This makes it easier to locate information again.  I find myself using the iPhone version of Google Reader a lot to quickly review articles and star them (especially during the innumerable commercials that litter American TV shows).  Later, when I have more time, I review the starred articles and share the ones that I think are relevant with the others in the Journal Club.

A Note Of Caution
The people in my journal club come from a variety of industries, and the information that we share is non-proprietary.  We don’t discuss our drug pipelines (or our software’s secret sauce), only techniques that are published in journals and discussed in the news.  Although Google does a good job of protecting private information, you should make no assumptions that your information will stay private, nor should you share anything that you wouldn’t discuss in a public forum such as a conference.  That said, a journal club is a great way of staying abreast of the latest developments in your industry, and a great way of sharing ideas.

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About aspenbio

I write software for scientists. I'm interested in Java/Groovy/Grails, the Semantic Web and Cancer Biology.
This entry was posted in Bioinformatics, Informatics, Science Blogging and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Creating a Journal Club With Google Reader

  1. Pingback: Social Media for Scientists: It’s all about the sharing | Aspen Biosciences Blog

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