PubMed Commons to be Discontinued


This post was updated on February 27, 2018.

Update: NLM appreciates all of the input we have received in response to our February 1, 2018, announcement that PubMed Commons is being discontinued. Thank you for your thoughtful comments. We are heartened to hear that many of you found it to be a useful service.

As we mentioned in the announcement, comments on articles indexed in PubMed will continue to be visible on PubMed and PubMed Commons through March 2, 2018, after which time they will be available for download from NCBI’s website. NLM again thanks all of you who participated in PubMed Commons for your interest and effort.


PubMed Commons has been a valuable experiment in supporting discussion of published scientific literature. The service was first introduced as a pilot project in the fall of 2013 and was reviewed in 2015. Despite low levels of use at that time, NIH decided to extend the effort for another year or two in hopes that participation would increase. Unfortunately, usage has remained minimal, with comments submitted on only 6,000 of the 28 million articles indexed in PubMed.

While many worthwhile comments were made through the service during its 4 years of operation, NIH has decided that the low level of participation does not warrant continued investment in the project, particularly given the availability of other commenting venues.

The discontinuation plan is as follows:

  • New comments will be accepted through February 15, 2018.
  • Comments will continue to be visible on the PubMed and PubMed Commons websites through March 2, 2018.
  • Users wishing to access the comments after March 2, 2018, will be able to download them from NCBI’s website.

Many thanks to all of you who participated in this experimental effort to enhance the opportunities for interaction about published biomedical literature.

69 thoughts on “PubMed Commons to be Discontinued

  1. Pingback: PubMed Commons to be Discontinued by NIH - Blogademix

  2. This is too bad. I feel the decision happens at a moment where the cultural shift is actually happening, and when the feature would be most needed… Anyway, you mention that “the availability of other commenting venues.” Would you care to elaborate? Because as far as I know, this is was or less the only place where papers could be commented in a public sphere…

  3. eLetter in Science attached to Peterson article:

    Just as thermometers provide a helpful index of health status, so can be viewed the various resources providing indices of scientific worth. Among the many considerations guiding a busy academic’s decision to review a paper, grant application, or even the curriculum vitae of a future Nobelist (i.e. pre-publication review), is the availability of these resources.

    Gregory Peterson’s note (March 16th) extolling the virtues of post-publication peer-review was written before the demise of an invaluable reviewer resource, the NCBI’s PubMed Commons (March 2nd). This was unique in providing a link from the PubMed abstract of a paper directly to the post-publication comments on that paper that had accumulated over the five years since the inception of PubMed Commons in 2013.

    PubMed abstracts remain a popular first port-of-call for those checking lists of references. While the loss of PubMed Commons now decreases an abstract’s utility, cutting the link to past comments compounds the problem in appearing to scornfully dismiss the hard work of numerous non-anonymous contributors, who were themselves required to have publishing credentials. In this respect PubMed Commons differed from other post-publication review sites (e.g. PubPeer) that allowed anonymity and demanded no credentials. Furthermore, with internet browsers other than Firefox and Chrome (for which there are apps) there was only a one-way link (e.g. from PubPeer to PubMed), not the converse.

    We weep for the loss of an important scientific thermometer which, unlike resources where torrents of anonymous comments flow free, has been an invaluable post-publication peer-review resource making that pre-publication review “yes” decision so much easier.

  4. Pingback: PubMed Shuts Down its Comments Feature, PubMed Commons – Library News

  5. I’m flabbergasted by this management of grocer. Are the 28 millions out of 6000 articles really worth it? Probably not, the usual wisdom says there are only 1% of interesting papers. It is way more expensive to maintain this huge heap of junk than some sparse comments, which only need the code to be installed and not so often updated. Even if there were only one comment, it could have a tremendous value and impact, they aren’t sausages on a shelf. The authors of the preprints surely haven’t time enough to systematically scan Internet searching the other “venues” where they’ll find what concern them most directly.

  6. I also think this is a wrong decision, but by now it is clear that no amount of reasoning, cajoling, or pleading is going to reverse it. Clearly there is some reason why it is imperative that these comments be removed from public scrutiny, and further comments be prohibited. The lame excuse of expense of upkeep, is just that. Hard to see what the reason could be, though- the policy preventing anonymous comments would seem to shift any legal liability to the commenters, and leave PHS blameless.

  7. Pingback: Scholarly Publishing Round-Up March 2018 – Becker Medical Library

    • Widely used but not public (i.e. note “.com” domain) and commenters are not identified. Pubpeer serves an often-useful but quite distinct purpose relative to PubMed Commons.

  8. Pingback: PubMed Health Website Closing in October | Highlight HEALTH

  9. Pingback: Guest Post: The Time for Open and Interoperable Annotation is Now - The Scholarly Kitchen

  10. I am saddened to learn that PubMed Commons is being killed off – just as I learn that it exists! As one commenter observed, there’s probably no use in complaining. But to reason the program should stop because it isn’t well-subscribed is ridiculous. Problem is, people don’t know about it and it needs to be easily accessible. Why hasn’t it been advertised or promoted? I suspect the number of people who post there is proportional to the number who know about it. Lots of clinicians and others comment on articles in Medscape, and I find the published comments to be thoughtful and useful. Why would it be different at PubMed? I say, offer a comments feature that’s visible and accessible to anyone who reads a paper.

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