PubMed's Latest Experiment: Public Comments


Biomedical research database PubMed has opened itself up for comments and Hilda Bastian at Scientific American thinks that's a great idea. She has good reasons for thinking so:
"The scientific literature is full of it.

By which I mean, of course, spin, error and less-than-reliable results.

All that noise makes it tough to keep up with what’s important to read and buzz about.

But the biomedical research community has a new way to share opinions on what may or may not be worth pursuing – they could now comment on articles at PubMed. This whopping literature database, visited by millions every day, could become one of the biggest science water-coolers of all."

But this move comes hard on the heels of Popular Science's decision to ban comments, also for arguably good reasons:
"Comments can be bad for science. That's why, here at, we're shutting them off.

It wasn't a decision we made lightly. As the news arm of a 141-year-old science and technology magazine, we are as committed to fostering lively, intellectual debate as we are to spreading the word of science far and wide. The problem is when trolls and spambots overwhelm the former,diminishing our ability to do the latter.

That is not to suggest that we are the only website in the world that attracts vexing commenters.Far from it. Nor is it to suggest that all, or even close to all, of our commenters are shrill, boorish specimens of the lower internet phyla. We have many delightful, thought-provoking commenters."

So that makes the move by Pubmed, in and of itself, a bit of an experiment. Are open comment sections good or bad for science? Do they help with understanding or hinder it? It will be interesting to see how it unfolds.
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