New feature aims to draw journals into post-publication comments on PubPeer

Brandon Stell

When a paper is challenged on PubPeer, is a journal paying attention? A new feature recently unveiled by the site makes it easier to find out. The Journal Dashboards allow journals to see what people are saying about the papers they published, and allows readers to know which journals are particularly responsive to community feedback. We spoke with co-founder Brandon Stell to get more information.

Retraction Watch: Can you briefly describe the Journal dashboards and how they work?

The dashboards are a collection of features that we created to make it easier for journal editors to track and react to comments on their journal.  The dashboards allow journals to create teams whose members receive immediate alerts to new PubPeer comments.  They will also be able to access other information such as statistics of commenting trends across the journal.  Specialized searches will also be available. At the moment the dashboards are available to journal editors only but we hope to offer a similar service for institutions in the near future.

RW: What prompted PubPeer to create the Journal dashboards?

Journals have contacted us over the years to request a mechanism to more efficiently find comments from PubPeer users.  As we started building that for them we wondered if they might interact a bit more with the PubPeer community if we gave them access to more information and better tools.  Also, from our perspective, there are journals–JCI and EMBO come to mind immediately–that seem to take problems with their articles much more seriously than some other journals.  We have been looking for different ways to make that more apparent to everyone and the dashboards allow us to do it by showing which editors care enough about the community’s reaction to their articles to subscribe to alerts.  We will show that with badges next to the journals that subscribe to dashboards.

RW: When reading discussions on the site, we see responses from authors more often than from journals; you (and we) have both noted that journals don’t always prioritize responding to criticisms of the work they publish. Are you hoping the dashboards change that?

Some of the features in the dashboards are designed specifically to make it easier for journals to interact more with the PubPeer community.  For instance they can choose to make an icon appear that signals that they are aware of a particular thread or they can choose to write a comment in the name of the journal.  

RW: Can you determine how many journals are using the dashboard so far?

We launched the dashboards last Friday night (the timing being a good reflection of our advanced marketing skills) and as of right now 12 journals have signed up for a 45-day free trial period.

RW: How much does it cost journals?

The cost of a one year subscription will depend on several factors, including impact factor and pre-existing comment volume.  But in deciding on the scale we felt that such a subscription should be worth to journals what the publishing industry typically charges to process one article.

RW: Is this the first pay-for-service feature on PubPeer? How does charging for this service fit into the long-term sustainability of PubPeer?

In 2016 the PubPeer Foundation was fortunate to receive funding from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation to rebuild PubPeer and maintain it for three years.  In the future we would like to rely less on outside funding to continue to develop the site and we see subscriptions like this one as a potential mechanism to achieve that.  Note that reading PubPeer and commenting for users will always be free.

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6 thoughts on “New feature aims to draw journals into post-publication comments on PubPeer”

      1. It sure would, Chris. I suppose that whether or not referees should also be alerted can be left up to the editors to decide. But, I was just wondering whether the new PubPeer feature can be made to inteface with the more popular journal management systems such that editors AND referees can be automatically alerted when a paper receives a comment. It seems to me that such an interface could conceivably be designed in a way that prevents PubPeer or anyone else from accessing referees’ names, reports, or any other information contained in the journal management program. Making referees aware of useful critical commentary on matters that they may have missed when they reviewed the manuscript in question could be useful in helping them be more discerning next time around. Then, again, since I know next to nothing about these journal management systems or even computer programming please consider this another one of my free associations. 🙂

  1. Another fun way to set the price would be as a function of the journal’s own subscription price, i.e. free for OA journals, expensive for glamor mags.

  2. Peer review has a vital role to play in research and publishing and a key step in that process is the revision of your paper. However, knowing how to respond to reviewers’ comments isn’t always easy – get it right and you could see your paper published, get it wrong and it could mean rejection. So what can you do to increase your chances of success?

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