Connecting up post-publication commentary via integration with PubMed Commons

The  launch last month of PubMed Commons, which makes it possible to post comments on PubMed for any indexed article, could mark a significant change in scientific communication.

BioMed Central, like many other publishers, has long encouraged readers to comment on published journal articles, but has found that uptake of this functionality has been limited. PubMed’s exceptional breadth of content, combined with its huge traffic, could change that.

For now, PubMed Commons remains in pilot phase. Comments are invisible to most PubMed users, but anyone who is listed as an author on an article which has been indexed by PubMed can participate in the pilot by logging in with a suitably authorized NCBI account, which enables the reading and posting of comments.

To make the existence of comments more visible to users and thereby hopefully to drive uptake of the pilot, BioMed Central has introduced a simple form of integration between its own commenting system and PubMed Commons. The way this works is that if you visit the comments page of a BioMed Central article, a prominent link draws attention to the existence of any additional comments on PubMed Commons.

For example, this article in BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making  on the use of Google Scholar for systematic reviews currently has 3 comments at BioMed Central, but has also received an additional comment via PubMed Commons (visible only to participants in the pilot).


Currently, the PubMed Commons  functionality that is exposed by NCBI’s standard APIs is very basic. It is possible to search  for all PubMed articles that have received comments  and to restrict such searches further. e.g. this search shows all BioMed Central articles which have received PubMed Commons comments (25 at the time of writing). However the PubMed Commons FAQ notes that if the pilot is successful,  a more extensive API is planned which would make it possible for publishers to incorporate PubMed Commons commenting more closely into their sites, perhaps entirely replacing publisher-specific commenting facilities (just as many blogs including BioMed Central’s now make use of Disqus as a standard system for blog commenting). In fact, Disqus itself is another possibility for online commentary on journal articles, and is already used in that way by the open access journal eLife.

BioMed Central is keen to do all it can to encourage broader uptake up of post-publication commentary. To that end, if you are a BioMed Central author and would like to participate in the PubMed Commons pilot, feel free to send an email to noting the PubMed ID of an article you have published with us, and we will send you a link allowing you to activate your NCBI account to join the pilot. Alternatively, you can request an invitation from any researcher who is already participating.

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