Google reader and RSS feeds

UPDATE (20-3-2013) - Google has announced that Google Reader will be discontinued. Feedly has promised to provide a seamless transfer. At the risk of pointing out the obvious, but I am under the impression that not everybody is using feedreaders yet (myself being one of these ignorant people not long ago). Are you one of them? Read on! You are missing something. And if you are a scientist, you are missing out on a great way of keeping up to date with the relevant new papers in your field. So, if you happen to read this, I strongly suggest to install Google Reader (UPDATE: Google Reader has been discontinued, FEEDLY is among the best alternatives) or some other reader, and subscribe to an RSS feed.
For starters, subscribe to the online newspaper you read. Or your favorite journal. Any news will now start appearing in your reader. Most newspapers/journals have links to their RSS feeds. And what is in these feeds, normally simply the latest articles published (constantly updated!) in a format readible by your RSS reader.
Want to check something out further? Just click on the title and you will be linked through to the article in question. It is simple, intuitive, and fast. I have not come across disadvantages yet. Just give it a try...
For an excellent instruction how to get started quickly: click here (thanks Joseph for pointing out this link).


Ever since starting a more serious professional website, I wanted to provide a selection of recent scientific papers on particular topics. I tried several of the Gadgets to get an RSS feed on my website, but none worked to satisfaction. Then I found FeedSweep which so far appears to do exactly what I want. So far I have set it up to filter the recent issues of Genetics and American Journal of Botany for keywords related to polyploidy.
Unfortunately, Google Sites does not allow code in the HTML, so I got around this by creating a separate blog with the filtered feed. I'm still tweaking with the exact presentation, but so far I'm quite impressed. Only downside I noticed so far is that things are added that look like links (for example on the word "performance") but are in fact ads once you move your mouse over them. There are not too many of these, and they are not as annoying as real pop-ups, so for now I'll have to live with it. Have a look!

The future of scientific publishing?

I received an e-mail today, that I almost deleted as SPAM. It announced the possibility to publish in webmedcentral, a novel way of publishing. It offered:
- Guaranteed publication of your research within 48 hours of submission
- No pre publication screening.
- Peer review takes place post publication in an open and transparent manner.
- No cost to authors or readers.

This development is obviously a response to the ongoing debate on the sustainability of the peer-reviewing system in science, and the role of publishers. I a nutshell the idea is that researchers can submit anything they want. This does not mean that there is no control whatsoever, there is an editorial check before an article is accepted and published online. It is not entirely clear what will be checked, but I assume this will at least involve checking whether the subject falls within the scope of the subject areas.

Will Webmedcentral be the future? I find it an intriguing development, but I fail to see the way a transition to this new "post-publishing reviewing" would work, especially in the context of how to judge the value of authorship in Webmedcentral, for example on someone´s CV. Unfortunately, I think Webmedcentral offers authors an easy opportunity to inflate their number of publications by submitting several marginal contributions. The open review is not at all a safeguard for this: people will undoubtedly be reluctant to be openly critical to colleagues they might later depend on to get a job (or a positive review).

A related issue that strikes me as problematic: “WebmedCentral does not have any problem with publication of previously published papers as the primary aim of this website is to facilitate scientific communication amongst biomedical researchers.” This immediately downgrades the value of Webmedcentral to a mere means to discuss scientific output. Because anything published on Webmedcentral may have been published elsewhere in duplicate, its role as a platform to publish will be fairly limited, to my view. Worse, it will promote duplication, as there will be no penalties for someone publishing first in a traditional journal and then on Webmedcentral.


Today I returned to a program that I quite like, Mendeley. This reference management software allows you to store PDFs and references, and to share them with collaborators. Especially nice is that your library can be synchronised on several computers through an online personal account. Also nice is that bibliographic metadata information can be automatically extracted from PDF files that are simply drag-and-dropped into a Mendeley folder. Although this feature has clearly not yet been fully developed, it already works well for PDFs of which the DOI can be found on the first page. In principle, plugins are available for WORD allowing citation and referencing, but this still has many problems to be useful. All-in-all, Mendeley does not quite yet offer a full alternative for reference managing software like Endnote or Reference Manager, but its development is rapid so I would not be surprised if this changes in the very near future. Finally, Mendeley lets you create your a personal online profile.

Back to the good old layout: changing the Microsoft Office 2007 Windows structure

Are you also annoyed by the new version of Office? Lost in the new menu structure. Although one can certainly argue that the old Office had its flaws, at least the menu structure had a certain logic. Things like copy and paste could be found in the Edit menu, cell formatting in the Format menu, most things made sense. And time had taught me where everything else was. However, it was apparently deemed necessary to modernise. So, copy and paste operations disappeared to the Home menu (why?) and I have never really remembered where the cell formatting options went. Luckily, I am not the only one baffled, and clever people have created an add-in to reorganise the menus into the way it used to be. There is the "Classic Menu Manager", easy-to-use and install, but unfortunately not free (trial is free though).

An alternative that appears to be free is "UbitMenu". I am trying it out now and will keep you posted on my experience...

Windows 7 Home Premium in any language you like!

If you have trouble understanding your computer, i.e., you literally don´t speak the language of the installed windows version: try this simple yet effective piece of software!

Even though microsoft would like you to buy the full version, this simple program does the trick and enables you to change the language of the operating system. Freeware, and easy to use.