Over the past two months or so I have been repeatedly asked about the commenting, annotating and rating PLoS ONE articles. So, I decided to compile the most frequently asked questions and try to provide some answers. The list is by no means exhaustive so feel free to add more in the comments:
Q: I have just read a peer-reviewed article on PLoS ONE. What do I do next?
Rate the article – tell us what you think of it by giving it a star ranking (1-5). Post a comment and/or an annotation and it this way build on the article and start a conversation with your peers.
Q: But, I am not an expert in the field!
That is perfectly OK – nobody can be an expert in everything. But, you have read this article because you were interested in the topic and understood some, most, or all of it. Thus, you are an educated, informed reader. A comment or question you post will be worthwhile and of interest to others.
The authors, referees and academic editors of PLoS ONE articles are encouraged to respond to your comments and questions. They have put a lot of hard work into the manuscript and will appreciate compliments as well as polite criticisms and questions from both experts and non-experts.
Comments that are entirely off-topic, or offensive, or posted by purveyors of pseudo/non/anti-science, will be deleted. If you notice an inappropriate comment, please notify us so we can evaluate it and act accordingly.
Q: I think the article is well done, well written and complete. I have nothing to ask, critique or add to it. I also think that the paper adds another piece to the puzzle, is not controversial and does not challenge existing theory. Good, but not exciting. Should I say anything?
Yes. PLoS ONE welcomes such articles. You may choose to rate the article high on Reliability and Style and lower on Insight if that is how you feel. But do post a comment nonetheless, stating your opinion. Congratulate the authors on good work and note that you think it is a valuable addition to the existing body of knowledge without being revolutionary.
Q: I think the article is challenging the current dogma in ways that make me excited about the new view. But I may have quibbles with some details.
Rate the article, perhaps giving somewhat lower marks on Reliability and Style and higher on Insight, if that is how you feel. Post a comment that shows your excitement about the work, as well as voices your minor concerns.
Q: I think the article has a major problem, but I am afraid to challenge a big name in my field.
Your nervousness is understandable. But, if you believe that you have identified a real problem with the article and you feel confident about it, it is likely that other readers will feel the same. Be the first one to comment about it (try to use non-confrontational language such as 'could' not 'should' etc) and read the responses of others who may agree or disagree with you. On PLoS ONE everyone is equal and everyone is expected to treat others with equal respect. Courage to challenge authorities will gain you a fair reputation among your peers.
Q: What is in it for me? Why should I spend my time and expose myself to do this?
Think of it in a long-term perspective. Post-publication review is likely to spread over time and become ubiquitous. Within a year or so, all seven PLoS journals will have this functionality. Other publishers are likely to follow suit. People who comment frequently and write valuable comments will build reputations over time. If you rate, annotate and comment on PLoS ONE papers now, you will be one of the early adopters and will be recognized and respected for this in the future.
Within a few months, there will be a new functionality implemented on PLoS ONE articles, whereby users will be able to rate each others' comments. Hopefully, this rating system will be universal over all Open Access journals with post-publication reviews. Frequent quality commenting will help you build up a high rating score from your fellow commentators. In the future, this score will be a number that you could include in your CV and use for promotions, getting jobs, etc. Also, prolific commenting may result in offers for future scientific collaboration or employment. This has already happened to prolific commenters on science blogs and is even more likely to happen to prolific commenters on peer-reviewed articles.
For more information about commenting, annotating and rating papers, including the technical details, see the Comment Guidelines. To get the first taste for the "feel" of the commenting inetrface, go and play in the Sandbox. Then charge ahead and get started – join the community.