I've been looking here and there for vender neutral forums for serious IT pros and academics: security, crypto, analytics, scientific, et al.. Any recommendations would be welcome. Thanks.
I'd start here for security/crypto/forensics.
If you want to read into security, it will depend on which platform you want to secure. Microsoft will have good info about their security, Linux likewise, etc. The technology can be research independently of each other though.
Depending on the technology present in an environment, your forensics tactics would change. Depending on your requirements your crypto security would change.
Bitlocker for example can be AES 128 or AES 256. There is a great white paper from Microsoft on how their technology works and how they vetted it against existing encryption software. That would open a lot of doors of new things to search on.
Many of today's components are open sourced, meaning vendors are all using the same technology.