Staying Current

Even if it seems to take a lot of time, it is very important to know what the other people are doing in your area. Below are some suggestions on how to do it efficiently.

Email lists, Newsletters, Discussion Forums

There are a few specialized email lists, newsletters, and discussion forums that you may want to follow. People sometimes announce papers there, and sometimes there are interesting discussions on current topic--they also allow you to get to know how some of the people think in the area.

One prominent one is the connectionists email list for established researchers in neural networks. In evolutionary computation, there's the EC-Digest and SIGEvolution newsletters. IEEE Computational Intelligence Society, Cognitive Science Society, and International Society for Artifical Life each have their own as well. Googlegroups on cigames, ml-news, and rl-list may be relevant, although much of the traffic consists of job announcements.

Finally, there are Reddit groups on machine learning and data science, and facebook group on deeplearning---and there's hackernews and kaggle forums. They have a lot of noise though.


You should follow the current contents of the most important journals and conferences in your area. The contents are usually posted on the appropriate email lists and newsgroups, and you can always check them through the journal and conference web pages as well. There's certainly no point reading every article that comes out, but when you see an article that is especially interesting, you can usually find a copy of it on the web. Even if they are behind a paywall, UT Library has subscriptions to most of them, and you can get them through the library website or through ezproxy (see the literature survey for instructions).

There are also various services that send you customized alerts on journal and conference contents. I don't have much experience with them (and they change all the time), but you may want to look into setting something like that up.


If you follow the literature and the email lists, you'll have a pretty good idea what is going on. But you still have to go to conferences. Nothing compares to talking to people about what they are planning to do next, where they think the field is going, and what they think is really exciting right now and what is not. You have to talk to neurobiologists about the plausibility of your model, and speculate with them about the possible causes of behavior; you cannot get the same perspective from journal articles.

Usually if your research is progressing well, you can put together one or two conference papers each year, and that way get to attend conferences as a presenter. However, even if you do not have a paper to present, major conferences like those listed in GoingToConferences, or conferences that happen to be in the same geographic area, may be well worth it. If there happens to be a specialty workshop in your area in these conferences you should consider going (even though workshop papers aren't necessarily prestigious publications), because work presented there is usually very current, and people are generally very accessible in such workshops. See the GoingToConferences page for the most important conferences and general tips on how to do it right.


Going to conferences is a the most obvious way of getting to know the people in your field, and making sure they know you. However, it is a good idea to make a more serious and systematic effort to network with them. The idea is not so much "trying to impress the right people", but more to recognize that science is done by people, and your work is a lot more fun and more productive if you maintain an ongoing discussion with your colleagues. It may involve emailing them about your recent paper, or comments about their recent paper, or stopping by and perhaps giving a talk when you are in town.

Last modified: Sun Sep 25 15:38:20 PDT 2022