I've noticed something about young people in science (and maybe this translates well to older people in science, too).
We lie like rugs.
Not big things like your name, your birthdate, you scientific findings. No no. Little lies. Things like "yeah, I totally work at least 2 hours every night when I get home". Honey, I see you there on Twitter. You keep using the word "Work". I do not think it means what you think it means. I mean, I don't doubt that you SOMETIMES put in work in the evenings. Heck, maybe you do it a lot. But is it always two hours or more? I hear people say they put in four. And if you're here 8-6, and you've got young kids, AND you're telling me you work an extra four hours every night? I'll be honest I don't believe you. (I'm not saying it's BAD that you don't work an extra four hours. I personally think you shouldn't. I think you should go home, clear your mind, and spend time with your kids and your significant other. If you don't have kids or others I think you should spend time with your friends, family, or dog.) But from what many of my colleagues tell me, you'd think they all spend their full lives reading papers at the gym, while family dinners are reserved for grant writing. They write papers with one hand while teaching their kids elementary french with the other and using their recently surgically attached third arm to make nutritious meals. Sleep? Who needs it? If this is indeed what they are all doing every minute of their lives...I'm screwed for science. Screwed.
But I'm pretty sure they're lying.
I know why we tell each other these lies. We tell them to each other because we want to show how dedicated we are. We want to prove that we're "cut out" to be in science, etc, etc.
But the lies and why we tell them are not what I'm interested in today. What I'm interested in...are PAPERS.
How many papers do you read? From the piles on people's desks (still 'to read'? Or 'have read'?) you'd think we churned through 20 papers a day. And from what people SAY when asked, well you'd think that, too. "Oh yes, I read the entirety of Science every time it comes out. I know it's not relevant to my work in pharmacology, but astronomy can be so instructive, don't you know?" I have to say I never believe anyone who tells me this (and people HAVE ACTUALLY TOLD ME THIS). Never. I'll believe you skimmed all the TITLES of all the papers, sure. But do I really believe that you read both "Voyager Measurements of Hydrogen Lyman-α Diffuse Emission from the Milky Way" and "Graphitic Tribological Layers in Metal-on-Metal Hip Replacements" with the same rapt attention, when your field focuses only on "Mouse B-Type Lamins Are Required for Proper Organogenesis But Not by Embryonic Stem Cells"?!?! I'll be honest, I think you're lying.
So I want to know the truth. How many papers would you say you read, on average, per week? I know this can vary drastically, some weeks I know I'm at the bench the whole time, while others it's all reading and writing. But average it out. How many do you read? 5? 10? 50? More or less? Do you feel you read "enough"? Do you feel you read less or more than other people of your professional group?
Let's have a survey, shall we?
EDIT: Ok, define "reading". By "read" I mean, read abstract, look at all the figures, glance at discussion, and be able to discuss if necessary with more than a "Oh yes, so and so et all saw increases in the whatchamacallit in the blah de blah". Being able to discuss both merits and flaws.