Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Summarising generic progress

I would like to review some important new results on topic X. Several recent studies using some complicated new experimental technique together with large computer simulations have led to new insights and understanding. This is a major advance in the field and attracting significant attention. But there are still many open questions and there remains much work to be done.

Did you learn anything from this "review" beyond that X is a hot topic that is generating lots of papers?
Unfortunately, I find many "News and Views" or "Perspective" pieces and review articles read a bit like the paragraph above. I would really like to know what specific new insights have been gained and what the open questions are.

Why do we often degenerate to the generic?
It is actually hard work to figure out what the specific insights are and to clearly communicate them, particularly in a few sentences.


  1. A cynic reading this might worry that no significant advances have actually been made recently in topic X, so there is nothing of value to summarize.

  2. It depends what your expectations for the News and Views sections are. Personally, I use them only for a brief summary (enough for me to decide whether it's worth reading the main paper). They all conclude that much work is ahead, so that part one can just ignore.