WASHINGTON—Whether the topic is AIDS or supernovas or high-temperature superconductivity, the blistering pace of discovery is prompting researchers in hot fields to flock to special meetings, spend hours on the phone, scan computer data bases and swap reams of journal article preprints in an effort to keep up and to record their own contributions. As scientists in those fields become increasingly dependent on such methods, however, some are concerned that the resultant short cuts have lowered the standards for reporting scientific information, injected an element of rancor and confused what is usually an orderly process.

Scientific meetings, often set up on short notice, have become essential to staying abreast of developments. Tom Mason said he and six other members of a team studying phase equilibrium in superconductive ceramics at Northwestern University's Materials Research Center take turns traveling to sessions around the country. There's no substitute, he feels, for hearing others...

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