Calling all authors, bloggers, reporters – please help with aggregating discussions of scientific papers

There has been a lot of hand wringing over whether we should and if we should how should we link discussions about scientific papers with the papers themselves.  For example, if someone writes a news story about a paper in BMC Genomics – should the online version of the paper show links to the news story?  I think so, as so many others.  If someone writes a blog post discussing the paper, should there be a tracked link on the journal site?  Again, I think so.  I think this is even more important in social media discussions of papers, which I find fascinating much of the time.   Very few people go to journal sites and post comments and open up discussions of papers.  But lots of people post comments to twitter, facebook, and other social media sites.  So why not bring those posts into the fold?

Now there are lots of efforts out there to collect comments about papers.  Faculty of 1000.  The Third Reviewer.  Research blogging. And much more. For other discussions of the issue see:

I am not really going to get into a discussion of all the ideas out there in this area.  Some are good.  Some are bad.  Some are probably both.  I personally think aggregation is going to be a very useful tool in post publication sharing and discussion and searching.  But that is not per se what I am here to talk about.  What I am here to talk about is what anyone can do right now to help with this in a very simple way.

My simple suggestion:
If you see ANY online discussion of a paper – a news story – a blog – even some smaller thread somewhere.  Find the journal article online and use the comments function is the journal has one to post  a comment saying “There was a news story discussing this paper in the New York Times.  See ….”  Or something like that.  And presto, people who go see the paper online will also have potential to find the link you post.

I have been doing this for a while.  It is relatively easy for PLoS Papers.  For example for my paper on “Stalking the Fourth Domain in Metagenomic Data” I posted all sorts of links using the PLoS One comment function.  I posted links to my blog.  I posted links to positive news stories.  I posted links to critiques.  Anything I could find.

And this worked out pretty well.

I then started posted links for other papers, even pretty old ones (I just posted a few for my PLoS Biology paper in 2006 on the Tetrahymena genome).  I have now done this for many PLoS papers as well as my recent Nature paper on a “Phylogeny driven genomic encyclopedia of bacteria and archaea“.  Now, mind you, this works best when the papers are open access or at least freely available, so that people can read the paper as well as the discussions.  But you could do this for any paper in principle if the journal has a commenting function.

Now – I am not alone in starting to do this.  PLoS One has even launched this as a formal “media tracking” project: see PLoS ONE’s Media Tracking Project | EveryONE.  Not sure how well their system will work, but any aggregation is good.  Of course, in the long run, systems that aggregate automatically using trackbacks or DOIs or other tools will be best (e.g., some journals link to Research Blogging posts but not all do), but those do not always work perfectly and some journals do not seem to like the automated approaches.  So please – link and comment away.  Become part of the aggregation solution.  I know this is not all we need to do and this is a relatively minor thing – but if we get everyone engaged in doing it, I believe there will be a catalytic effect whereby people will then understand why this might be useful to do broadly …