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PubMed Commons: A Community for Scientists

I recently came across PubMed Commons, a new resource developed by NIH's National Center for Biotechnology Information to facilitate scientist-to scientist interactions. The idea is to provide a forum for scientists to comment on each other's work. Anyone who has at least one publication in PubMed can participate, and helps scientists receive feedback on their work (perhaps more constructive feedback, in fact, than the anonymous one obtained through journal reviews, because of a member-based rating system that identifies the most useful comments), as well as share links to resources and data sets. The NIH calls it a virtual water cooler.

To further participation, I think it'd be good to give more rewards to the users identified (by their peers using the rating system) as making the most useful comments, such as free registration to the annual conference in their field, the opportunity to have a short video about their research posted on the PubMed Commons website, priority review or open-access publication for one of their papers - let me know if you think of something else. The danger is that a few people will leave a comment or two and then will lose interest - I'm curious to see how the NIH will attempt to make PubMed Commons engaging and readership grow. (5,000 scientists have registered so far and 1,600 have left a comment. PubMed Commons was launched in October 2013.) It would also be important to define some metrics to quantify the usefulness of the site in terms of the advancement of science, although gathering data will take time: will articles discussed on PubMed Commons be cited more frequently because they will be more prominent in the field? will collaborations be initiated based on the discussions on the site? Also, the website seems predominantly word-driven. It might be valuable to have more of a user-friendly, multi-media approach where people could upload not only a paper but maybe (separately) the key graph of the paper or a related presentation - "nuggets" to motivate interested fellow scientists to read the whole paper.

You can access PubMed Commons here.


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