“You found this helpful:” What people like in comments on PubMed

Commented rated "You found this helpful"

Rating is a critical function for a commenting system. It’s a key way a forum’s members can encourage the kind of discussion they want to see – and discourage what they don’t find helpful.

Increasingly, ratings are influencing PubMed Commons, the new commenting system in PubMed. There’s a selected comment stream on the PubMed Commons landing page. We’ve also started sending out tweets when new comments start ranking well on several factors.

The rating options are only available for comments – and you can’t rate your own comment. PubMed authors who have joined PubMed Commons can click on “yes” or “no” to the question, “Was this helpful?”

Although it’s early days, ratings are already sending some messages. One of those is what people don’t find helpful: the kind of comment that praises an article without saying why – or that’s only communicating something that is already clear in the abstract.

The message seems to be: use the comment function when you have something specific to say about, or add to, the publication. Making a similar comment repeatedly also tends to be unpopular, as is self-promotion.

Which comment has been the most popular so far? It’s a comment by Gonzalo Otazu in December. Otazu calls into question the validity of statistics in a paper that got a lot of media attention: a study suggesting that mice can inherit fear of smells associated with traumatization of their parents.

As well as good critiques, people have rated discussions positively – especially when the publication’s authors respond or encourage discussion about their paper. Some recent examples:

Integrating outside discussions in journal clubs and blog posts with PubMed Commons comments gets positive ratings, even when the authors don’t participate.

You may be able to invite yourself with our “Get started” wizard. If your email isn’t there, one of your colleagues should be able to join and then invite you. Any member of PubMed Commons can invite others – including an author of a paper that’s been commented on.

You can check out the selected comments at the PubMed Commons landing page – one click away from PubMed’s home page – or follow us on Twitter. And you can find out how to set up alerts on topics, articles or authors you’re interested in via our “Comment search and alert” guide.

From now on, the quality of PubMed Commons will rely on both the comments and the ratings. You need to be a member of PubMed Commons to rate articles. If you’re an author of a publication in PubMed, you’re eligible.

So join today – to discuss the biomedical literature or, just as importantly, to rate the comments.

The PubMed Commons team

More information

Meet PubMed Commons: The new comments forum in PubMed

Join PubMed Commons

Comment search and alert: A PubMed Commons guide


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About NCBI Staff

The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), a division of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, provides access to scientific and biomedical databases, software tools for analyzing molecular data, and performs research in computational biology.

4 thoughts on ““You found this helpful:” What people like in comments on PubMed

  1. PubMed Commons would be more useful if we can make comments using psudoname while register with real name. In this way, more critical/useful comments will be received while still keeping the commentor responsible. This will serve the goal of this tool and the Science as a whole much better.

  2. I agree with Mr Bai. Allowing to comment with a pseudonym would promote exchange of ideas more freely without the pressure of “not offending” colleagues. There should also be an option to flag a comment as “inappropriate” so to enable removing such comments.

  3. Pingback: Unveiling a new look – and more – for PubMed Commons | PubMed Commons Blog

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