A quick note on the background
of the Papersums project

Published: Dec 18

After acquiring a Master degree from the university of Manchester, Nirav joined the Helmholtz center to pursue a PhD degree in biology. He quickly realized how much time and effort had to be allotted for simply catching up with scientific literature. Therefore, he asked how could he efficiently read papers and keep track of relevant literature with limited time? He began making short notes and summaries to papers he needed to visit again, especially while writing his doctoral thesis. During his postdoctoral training, he spoke about this issue with his friend Kevin who immediately asked the next relevant question – do other students and scientists at large face a similar issue?

A quick google search will tell you that by some estimates over 4 million papers were published in 2020 and that scientists from countries with English as their primary language such as the US, take on an average 32 minutes to read each paper [Tenopir 2015]. Inadvertently, scientists increasingly read more articles each month, however, this trend cannot rise indefinitely unless changes are made in the means with which relevant information is recognized, filtered and thereafter processed for own use. In line with this, “lack of time” is often the reason behind termination of search for information sources by students [Catalano 2013], although poor search and insufficient application of analytical skills are certainly a part of the problem [Bøyum & Aabø 2015]. Moreover, it has become rather clear that with the advent of internet tools such as twitter, the consumption of knowledge has changed [Spezi 2016]. Convenience is the main factor by which young scientists and students seek information [Connaway 2013] – providing a possible explanation behind the frequent use of online information tools such as Wikipedia.

For the sake of altruism or otherwise, scientists and academics are taking to social media to promote their work. Undoubtedly, social media and internet tools are becoming popular in effectively disseminating knowledge to a much broader audience than ever before – That is the ultimate challenge we face in this information-intense era – how does one critically reflect on how to process information to become more effective scientists without feeling the burden of information? Rather than overloading the internet with more content, Nirav and Kevin wondered whether repackaging of the available information into smaller and more efficiently accessible bits may help lessen the burden. With a short summary of a scientific paper, one can quickly skim though the most relevant information of a study before deciding to invest more time in an in-depth analysis of results and claims by reading the whole paper. This format could support the promotion of one’s work and aid in efficient sorting of important material without feeling overburdened by volumes of information, thereby saving precious time.