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Rate Early, Rate Often

I’ve been waiting to write this Blog posting for a while and now I can. As from today PLoS ONE has a user rating system for its articles. All users can now rate articles in three subjective categories: Insight, Reliability and Style. We have made the tool, now we need you to come and use it.

User rating is a very common feature of websites these days, be it for movies, books, blog posts, pretty much anything. What user rating allows is a quick and easy survey of a communities opinion. Despite the obvious advantages to hard pressed scientists trying to get to grips with a vast literature this simple system hasn’t been much applied to scientific papers up to this point.

The major exception to this is probably Faculty of 1000, which has been providing ratings for papers for many years, but that is not based on the opinion of a whole community but only the thoughts of a select few.

So what will this new rating system look like? Well, if you go to any of the six hundred or so papers that PLoS ONE has so far published and look in the right had column you will see a little box containing five small stars. Those indicate the overall aggregate rating of the paper based on individual ‘votes’ from individual users.

You can also see there how many users have rated a paper and can expand the box to show the average rating in all three categories. You can also open up a separate page which shows you exactly who has rated a paper, what their ratings were and any comments they have made.

By far the most important thing in the ratings box though is the link marked “Rate This Article”. That will open up a box the window which allows you to give your own opinion as to how important, reliable and stylish the work described is on a 5 point scale: bland to profound, tenuous to unassailable, and crude to elegant. There is also the opportunity to leave a comment along with your rating.

Rating comments are intended to be shorter and pithier than annotation and discussion comments. These are where you can say ‘great paper, well done’ to the authors, or whatever else your opinion of a paper might be. Obviously, rules of civilised behaviour apply.

I could go on at length about how to use ratings but since it is all written up neatly and using proper grammar on our Guidelines for Rating page I won’t go on about it here. Instead I have a call to arms.

Any user rating system relies, like any system of voting, works better the more people engage with it. So here is my request to everyone reading this blog:

Never read a paper on PLoS ONE without leaving a rating

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