The title is fairly generic in nature, so I'm trying to elaborate in the body. I'm interested in answers pertaining to Theoretical Computer Science (TCS), but I'm certain the question would be equally relevant in fields which have been around for more than a couple of decades, and hence I hope to get responses from researchers in other disciplines as well!
What I'm trying to understand is how researchers (who have been working for quite sometime) in any specialized field (like TCS) keep track of results that have already been published - not just seminal results, but also results which have a lesser (but not insignificant) impact on the field but were published years or decades before. At the same time, one has to keep track of results being published in (at least) the notable conferences in the current year as well, in order to absorb the new ideas presented there and incorporate/extend them in one's own work.
I find it kind of incredible to believe that all of the above is possible without any kind of disciplined approach to reading and subsequent assimilation of the ideas on a regular basis - which is why I'm asking members of academia about their experiences/practices on this. In particular:
- How frequently (if at all) do you revisit "classic" results?
- Do you keep written/electronic notes on a regular basis to keep track of continuing progress in a field (say, for instance, inapproximability results for geometric problems) - or do you prefer to keep it all in your mind?
- To keep track of current state of art, do you only attend/read Tier-I conferences, or do you get useful ideas from results published in Tier-II/III conferences as well?
- What kind of time/resources would you typically set aside for reading, as opposed to working on a problem?
In short, I'm trying to find what kind of things would you expect a top researcher to "know" off the top of his head, and at what level of depth - and how would you go trying to maintain that level of perception over the years?
(I understand that the question IS subjective, but I'm hoping that it satisfies the guidelines for a "good subjective" question!)