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Peer Review Possibilities

Online post-publication peer reviewers offering critiques of others' papers are confronted by a growing range of places to publish their comments, and they now find themselves trying to pick the publication that will make the biggest impact, Richard Van Noorden writes at the Nature News Blog.

Online pubs like, PubMed Commons, and others are offering new forums for commenters who sometimes have lengthy and structured critiques that were produced through their own research.

University of Hong Kong researcher Kenneth Lee recently opted to post his critique of the controversial stem cell research papers from Nature, after his lab tried and failed to reproduce the results, at the ResearchGate social network.

The site enabled Lee to publish a structured review that includes sections for methodology, analyses, references, images, findings, and conclusions. While he wants to publish his results in a journal, particularly so that his students will get credit for their work, Lee says his review has already been cited by the Wall Street Journal, the BBC, and the Boston Globe.

Lee had not initially planned to post on ResearchGate; the site's managers invited him to try out their new post-publication review format, OpenReview, which enabled him to retain the copyrights to the work.

"A nice thing about the more structured format is that it encourages reviewers to be more systematic and to support their critiques. Short comments are OK, but it is easier to make reckless statements in the absence of structure," University of Washington microbiologist Ferric Fang says.

The ResearchGate community is a group of verified scientists who are affiliated with institutions, the site's co-founder, Ijad Madisch, tells Nature.

He says Lee "wanted to get his replication out fast in order to warn others and to get feedback on his work" and probably did not want to wait six months for a journal to publish his article.

"If there is one central place where people go, post-publication peer review becomes more efficient for everyone," Madisch says.