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Literature Forensics: Navigating Through Flotsam, Jetsam, and Lagan

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Abstract:Intimidation and bewilderment are but two feelings scientists often confront when facing the ever- expanding universe of the published scientific literature. With the birth of any hypothesis, all fantasies of a one-way freeway for a scientific endeavor evaporate when the journey abruptly confronts a forked-road dilemma. One direction (what is known and what was known) leads back in time. A twisted, rutted, convoluted course, it can reveal how, and from where, pioneers from other, unrelated journeys arrived at the same juncture; but it can make for a punishing and, at first thought, boring ride. The other (what is unknown or pretends to be the unknown) quickly recedes into what at least appears to be the unexplored horizon - and its seductive siren can easily win our attention.

Proper navigation of this juncture of old vs. new, past vs. future, dull vs. exciting, known vs. unknown is critical in avoiding a morass of ill fates, including reinventions duplication, and attendant ridicule or censure by our colleagues for failing to build upon or acknowledge what those before us have done. Following the siren of exploration without investigating where others have traveled is fraught with risks - the worst being when the fork's two branches loop back on one another, revealing that they are one continuum. What had seemed to be uncharted territory is unveiled as a Mobius path towards the fool's gold of rediscovery. Much like the disoriented spelunker seeking a "new" route out of the cave, the much sought destination and the point of departure can become one and the same when their route circles back.
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Citation:Daughton, C. G. Literature Forensics: Navigating Through Flotsam, Jetsam, and Lagan. THE SCIENTIST 16(4):12, (2002).
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Contact: Chris Siebert - (702) 798-2234 or siebert.christopher@epa.gov
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Division: Environmental Sciences Division
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Branch: Immediate Office of Division Director
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Product Type: Journal
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Published: 02/18/2002
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Related Entries:
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Bullet Item Addressing Emerging Issues in Water Quality Through Environmental Chemistry
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