We’ve noticed, among our life sciences clients, that keeping up to date on scientific research and applicable laws and regulations can be a full-time job in itself.
Staying updated on your area of science is critical; both to ensure that your research fits within the greater context of scientific knowledge and learning and to avoid unnecessarily repeating work that’s already been done. And then keeping up with ever-evolving legal and compliance obligations is a business necessity, since you’re required to comply with those rules.
But how do you find the time? And when you have, how do you find the papers and updates that you need to assess?
Know That You’re Not Alone
This isn’t an action item, but it’s helpful to realize that pretty much everyone has this problem. Scientific research is an ever-growing field of knowledge, and a tremendous amount of old information doesn’t lose its relevance just by being old. There really is more to learn today than there ever has been before—and there will be even more tomorrow. Research is an ongoing issue, not a one-and-done proposition that you can “finish” and check off your to-do list.
Not only is the field of information that you need to master expanding, but more studies are also focusing on interdisciplinary fields, meaning that practitioners must understand two or more separate areas of research. Add to that the demands on researchers’ time and attention, and it’s no wonder that many scientists and scientific writers find themselves falling behind.
Make Smart Use of Technological (and Personal) Tools
In good news, there are more tools available every day to help researchers stay up to date on what’s happening in their field. Consider the following options for scientific research, and perhaps spend a half-hour this week digging into the ones you aren’t using yet:
PubCrawler, which will send a weekly email with scientific research based on your search terms;
PubMed, which allows users to save searches and receive periodic email updates Google Scholar, which sends alerts when new information about a search becomes available;
PubChase, which was specifically created to help researchers stay up to date on biomedical research;
RSS feeds based on specific journals of interest, through Feedly or another service;
Email alerts from key journals or tables of contents from new journal issues; and
Twitter or other social media channels for scientists or journals in your field.
Don’t neglect the personal in favor of the technological, either. Conferences are a great way to network and can deliver a wealth of information in published proceedings. Professional organizations such as the Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society (RAPS) in America or the Organisation for Professionals in Regulatory Affairs (TOPRA) in the U.K. produce regular newsletters and updates. Many researchers also get some of their best study references from colleagues—so be sure you’re doing your part by sharing information that may be of interest, encouraging others to reciprocate.
Set Reasonable Priorities
You simply can’t read everything. Even if you limit yourself to your specific area of research and regulations, odds are that you don’t have time to carefully read every study that may be helpful or relevant. To make matters worse, there are no deadlines on this regular practice of staying up to date—making it all too easy to put it off in favor of urgent, high-priority tasks.
To cope with these realities, prioritize what you read. Limit your full-text reading to research that’s directly related to your current projects. Rank studies based on the most relevant and highly regarded journals within your specific field.