Before you can do good science, you must read good science. A lot of it. The good, the bad.
But how to manage your scientific reading? Do you print out everything you can possibly hope to read some day? File it away somewhere?
Maybe you download PDFs, and carefully curate your articles in a dense folder structure forest.
Being the supremely lazy and scattered-brained person that I am, I need a more hands-off solution. The primary tool I use for reading and storing scientific papers is Papers. Think of it as itunes for your PDF library.
Download pdfs, drag them into papers, and let it do the rest. The program is quite good at automatically pulling meta data (author, journal, etc) from the web. I point mine to pubmed only: google scholar metadata isn’t always spot on.
Papers can be read, rated, and tagged. Best of all, there is ipad integration with automatic library syncinc and highlighting. This means that I effectively never have to print out a paper again. I bring my ipad to discussions or as a side-car to my workstation when writing papers.
My qualms with papers really relate to my own inadequacies. For some reason, collections have never been quite intuitive enough for me, so my papers are a hugely disorganized mess. Tagging papers with keywords, and then creating smart collections around those keywords, sounds like a good strategy, but not one I’ve implemented. Fortunately, the spotlight index is really robust, and I can find what I’m looking for without too much fuss.
I’ve also heard good things about Mendeley and Xotero- feel free to leave a comment about which you prefer.