Thursday, February 19, 2015

Post publication review on PubPeer

036e889646a0ff112e5f150a625f5268PubPeer is a web site where people can discuss published articles, anonymously if they prefer. I finally got a chance to play with it a few days, it it was a fascinating experience. You simply type in the DOI or PMID for an article and see if anyone has said anything about that article. It also automatically pulls comments from PubMed Commons, for example the article Putting GenBank data on the map has a comment that was originally published as a guest post on this blog. PubPeer knows about this blog post via Altmetric, which is another nice feature. PubPeer also has browser extensions which, if you install one, automatically flags DOIs on web pages that have comments on PubPeer. Also nice.

So, I took PubPeer for a spin. While browsing GenBank and GBIF, as you do, I came across the following paper: "Conservation genetics of Australasian sailfin lizards: Flagship species threatened by coastal development and insufficient protected area coverage" doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2013.10.014. Some of the sequences from this paper, such as KF874877 are flagged as "UNVERIFIED". Puzzled by this, I raised the issue on PubPeer (see ). A little further digging led to the suggestion that they were numts. After raising the issue on Twitter, one of the authors (Cameron Siler) got in touch and reported that there had been an accidental deletion of a single nucleotide in an alignment. Cameron is updating the Dryad data ( ) and GenBank sequences.

I like the idea that there is a place we can go to discuss the contents of a paper. It's not controlled by the journal, and you can either identify yourself or remain anonymous if you prefer. Not everyone is a fan of this mode of commentary, especially it is possible for people to make all sorts of accusations while remaining anonymous. But it's a fascinating project, and well worth spending some time browsing around (what IS it with physicists?). For anyone interested in annotating data, it's also a nice example of one possible approach.