Early Developments in the PubMed Commons Pilot

It’s been an exciting and productive time since the PubMed Commons beta launch. We’ve learned a great deal, both here working under the hood and from the conversations in social media and blog posts.

We are working on answers to questions that people are asking, via our Twitter account and by revising and expanding information on the PubMed Commons page soon. And we will try out a Twitter chat: so keep your eye out on @PubMedCommons for the announcement.

There are now about 1,000 people signed up in the Commons. Remember, any author in PubMed can join, from anywhere in the world. Check out our step-by-step guide. Once you are in, you can invite others. So please spread the word!

In the development phase, there had been around 100 comments. It took just under a week of the beta pilot to get the second 100. We’ll be highlighting examples soon.

Perhaps a third of the first 200 comments included critique or pointed to other studies or reviews with the potential to change people’s interpretations or conclusions. Some authors posted corrections or changed their own conclusions in the light of others’ subsequent work. Authors are also using PubMed Commons to update people on their work – including links to databases that have moved, providing contextual information and backstories as well as new, relevant work.

Many other participants are taking the opportunity to add links to relevant papers and data, sometimes in the non-PubMed academic literature or data repositories – including complete datasets, data re-analyses, blog posts and full text pre-prints of the article. Important tip: You can use formatting that not only make your links live, but ensures that comments mentioning other PubMed articles will be cross-linked, as described in this PubMed Commons Tweet.

Around half of the comments were principally discussion, developing thought and raising or asking questions. A minority of these were recommendations of articles without discussion. And there has already been some interesting back and forth, between people interested in an issue and between author and PubMed Commons participant.

PubMed Commons is an un-moderated commenting system, although serious concerns can be reported. The Commons relies on the participant community to shape the conduct it wants to see. One important signal comes from participants using the rating function to indicate they found a comment to be helpful or unhelpful, as shown in this PubMed Commons Tweet.

There are now enough data in the system for people’s ratings to begin having an influence on the commenting stream at the home page. This will not affect the inclusion of comments in PubMed. Learning how to enhance the value of PubMed Commons for PubMed users is critical to the success of this commenting system. We look forward to discussing more about this soon as PubMed Commons evolves.

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6 thoughts on “Early Developments in the PubMed Commons Pilot

  1. It may be helpful in PubMed Commons to provide a “sticky” (i.e. permanently prominent) space where the original authors of the paper can summarise and update their views of its current status, in the light of subsequent comments and research. This would be especially valuable where the findings of a paper have been superseded, or where the volume of comments is very large, and would shorten the time during which other researchers inadvertently continue to cite it as if it’s original findings stood.

  2. Hello,

    I am a newly graduated medical doctor from Jordan. I would like to thank you a lot for this new idea. In my medical school, not enough concentration was given to medical research. Therefore, I can confidently say that virtually all of my colleagues and I graduated without having the ability to critically appraise the literature. When I read an paper’s abstract and I like it, the only way for to know me whether the paper is good or not is to how many citations the paper got. Nothing better!

    Well, with the commenting environment supported, I can simply enter into PubMed and read whatever comments from experienced people the paper received. I can then tell whether a paper is good or not. This is why I believe that only professional people should be allowed to comment. I do not like that the situation will be like comments under a YouTube video.

    What is more exciting, in the longer term, after reading how experienced authors appraise the published literature, I believe that this would mean that I will be able to develop appraisal skills myself. I am really very excited by the idea and cannot wait to start to see its effects. In my humble opinion, I think that it will revolutionze research.

    Best regards.

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