Getting hold of scientific information
Perhaps the most important aspect of science is that it is completely open. That means that scientists are careful to lay out all the evidence that they have and their arguments for an idea and anyone else can come along and check their work. All the data, photographs, statistics, and in biology – specimens of animals, plants and fossils are freely available for people to work on and examine. In the case of specimens these are held in museums or special collections – what you normally see as a public visitor to a museum is typically just a small fraction of the scientific research collections. In the case of the scientific arguments and data, these are published in scientific journals and books.
While you probably know of a local or national museum where you could go and see some scientific collections, you may not know how to get hold of scientific books and papers. We do refer to these occasionally on AAB but in any case you might want to go out there yourself and check the original research for an answer or to learn more. Here then is a brief guide to getting hold of original research. Of course it helps if you know exactly which paper or subject you are interested in, but all kinds of things are out there if you look.
For sale – while most scientific journals are not readily available to the public, the major journals Science and Nature are often for sale in bookstores and even newsagents. Published weekly they cover the most important scientific research. If you really like a subject or a journal you can subscribe to it and buy a year’s worth of issues. Most journals will also sell single papers or single volumes if you ask. You can also find old scientific papers and journals for sale in second hand book shops. Science text books and research books can also be bought from major book stores or second hand stores and some even specialise in scientific books and papers.
In public libraries – since they are typically for a specialist audience, few libraries carry science journals, but some (especially Nature and Science) are available as are some science books. Some universities will also let you access their library collections and of course they have extensive libraries of science journals.
Online journals – most science journals at least have a presence on the internet for you to find their papers. Even better, many provide some of their older issues for free online, and some journals are entirely free and accessible to anyone on the internet.
Online archives – some journals and researchers hold huge archives of science papers online. A good search on the internet can turn up all kinds of books and papers that you can read for free.
From scientists – scientists do their research so that people can read it, not just other scientists, but anyone. If you contact them about their research and ask for a copy of their papers they will probably send them to you. Most people can be found online with their e-mail or webpage available so ask to see their work.