Journal Nature changes course on allowing comments

In September the Journal Nature started allowing online comments. On the surface it sounded like a promising idea –getting papers out sooner and allowing a wider range of commentary– but as I asked in Nature opens the peer review door a crack. Will anyone step through?— it didn’t get off to a promising start:

I don’t see a single comment on the 10 pages that are listed on the Nature site.

Now the program has been withdrawn due to lack of interest. It’s not as easy as it may look to generate mass use of a tool like this even for a prestigious journal. One of the problems is that Nature was too restrictive on who could post and how the comments would be moderated.

In announcing the discontinuation, Nature’s editors said they found the majority of scientist-authors were unwilling to post their papers or were unwilling to criticize peers’ work publicly by posting comments on Nature’s Web site.

Of the 1,369 short-listed papers submitted during the four-month trial, authors of 71 papers were willing to post their work online, Nature said, receiving 92 technical comments.

The Public Library of Science’s PLoS ONE is starting to ask for questions and comments as articles are posted. PLoS is much more attuned to user participation and their experiment is more likely to succeed, based on a quick look at their guidelines.

We’ll see.

December 22, 2006

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