Friday, May 29, 2009

The Preprint Server

When it comes to science, can there be too much of a good thing? Opinions may differ, but all I know is that I couldn’t survive long without the preprint server. I think that if I suddenly withdrew from using it, I’d go through the shakes. is the primary way I have access to bleeding-edge research on a daily basis. It is a wonderful alternative to waiting months until a paper is published in a peer-reviewed journal. In many cases, by the time a paper is eventually published in such a journal the news of the results is somewhat old hat.

The “e-print server” as it is called, is owned and operated by Cornell University and partially funded by the National Science Foundation. is well known in the scientific research establishment as the place to place leading-edge research results out in public before actual publication in peer-reviewed journals. The service is free to use, and constantly updated. Academics routinely use citations in the form arXiv/abs/0708.3818 which points to the paper available in PDF and Postscript formats. The preprint server is organized by scientific categories. My favorite categories are astro-ph (astrophysics), and gr-qc (general relativity and quantum cosmology).

I typically check my two favorite categories each morning to see what’s new. There is usually a lot new. For instance, on Friday, May 29, 2009 there were 60 newly submitted papers for the astro-ph category, and 20 for gr-gc. I’m normally looking for papers specific to my areas of interest, gravitational wave research, cosmology, and exoplanet discovery. There are at least several new papers per day for these subject areas, so the rate of availability of new research results can be a bit overwhelming. Nevertheless, I’m quite tickled because I’m assured access to all the latest scientific results. That’s hard to beat for a physics groupie like me! has many other physics categories, plus categories in mathematics, nonlinear sciences (such as automata), computer science, quantitative biology, quantitative finance, and statistics. is a veritable treasure trove of scientific research. I could not recommend this resource more highly.

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