Enter PubMed Commons

By Neuroskeptic | October 22, 2013 2:57 pm

A few hours ago, the NCBI announced the pilot phase of PubMed Commons, a comment system for PubMed.


Users can now read and write comments on any paper listed in the most widely used search tool for biology, psychology and neuroscience.

This could herald a fundamental change in the way that scientific debate takes place. As I said a while ago, “an online comment thread is peer review in its purest form”. As James Coyne puts it, Letters to the Editor just became obsolete.

Still, this is only a first step, not least because the system currently has an invitation-only registration policy.

I believe that all scientists ought to support PubMed Commons and help make it a success. Here’s what I plan to do:

  • Join It: If you have received a grant from the NIH (USA) or the Wellcome Trust (UK), you should be able to sign up right away. If not, you need to be invited by someone who’s already participating. On that note…
  • Invite Others: Once you’re in, help out your colleagues by extending invitations. You can invite anyone who’s listed as an author on a PubMed-indexed paper.
  • Leave Comments: Comment on other people’s papers. Reply to comments on your own work. Criticize and praise. But…
  • Be Upstanding: Be polite, scholarly, respectful, objective and straightforward. Be nicer than you would be on a blog, on Twitter, or even in a paper – because remember that we’re guests. If Commons ends up making PubMed worse, the project will get pulled, and rightly so. It would be a tragedy if that happened.
  • Be Patient: Remember that some users of PubMed Commons will have never left an online comment before. So give each other the benefit of the doubt.
  • Spread The Word: Build buzz! Tell people about PubMed Commons as a whole, and tell them about particular posts and discussion threads you think they’ll like.
CATEGORIZED UNDER: blogging, links, media, science, select, Top Posts
  • daniel8

    I am not an NIH-WT grantee, I created a NCBI profile today for the first time, and by simply clicking “how can I join?” I received an invitation link by Pubmed and can now comment, without the need of being explicitely invited by someone with NIH/WT grant.

    And great news indeed.

    Also, says that no pseudonyms are allowed. So no “neuroskeptic” comments to be expected there?

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/neuroskeptic/ Neuroskeptic

      Well… thanks to this paper: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23570959, “Neuroskeptic” is a PubMed listed author, so I do in fact have an account.

      However, I feel that using it would go against the spirit of the Commons, so I’ll stick to my real name.

  • Pingback: PubMed Commons – A New Way to Share Information and Research Processes « Health and Medical News and Resources()

  • enbeh

    Pubmed Commons sounds like an excellent idea. And like an excellent tool for procrastination and distraction when I should be writing or programming (as if Facebook wasn’t enough). But never mind, maybe they get the post-publication review concept to work after all; it would indeed be a great service to science.

    What I find questionable is that during the closed pilot phase only users with .edu and .ac email addresses are eligible to join. I understand that they want to restrict the number of users at this time, but there is good science (and good commenting) going on in other parts of the world, too. Just saying.

    • Hilda Bastian

      It’s not restricted to people with .edu and .ac email addresses.

      • enbeh

        Ok, sorry, I take it back. As their blog explains, there are three ways to join Pubmed Commons during the closed phase:

        #1. Have a NIH/Wellcome Trust grant or be an NIH researcher,
        #2. Be invited by someone who is a participant, or
        #3. “Recruit a group of at least 50 PubMed authors with their current e-mail addresses (which must be *.edu or *.ac)”

        So, only option 3 actually restricts access according to the location of your email server as I implied in my previous post. That said, I find the restriction due to option 1 no less questionable.


        • Hilda Bastian

          Doesn’t have to be just American institutions: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedcommons/faq/#canijoin – thanks for pointing that out, will get that fixed, because that’s an error.

          Number 1 isn’t a restriction: it’s an opportunity, so these people have an advantage. The only restriction for anyone else is having an item in PubMed.

          • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/neuroskeptic/ Neuroskeptic

            Thanks for the clarification Hilda!

          • Hilda Bastian

            Glad to have the error pointed out so it could be fixed – thanks!

  • http://www.razvanflorian.eu/ Răzvan Valentin Florian

    If you want to share reviews of scientific publications and you did not get an invitation to PubMed Commons, or you want to do it anonymously, or if you want to review non-PubMed papers, you may instead post your reviews on Epistemio ( http://www.epistemio.com/ ).



No brain. No gain.

About Neuroskeptic

Neuroskeptic is a British neuroscientist who takes a skeptical look at his own field, and beyond. His blog offers a look at the latest developments in neuroscience, psychiatry and psychology through a critical lens.


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