Today, an increasing number of research papers are publicly available. At the same time, a community of researchers and students are reading those materials. We are highlighting, commenting, finding connections between topics, contradicting... in general digesting that knowledge.

Where does all that information go? Is there a project/app/platform that allows me to access the comments and annotations of those who read the papers before me? Something like a line comment on github.

Being science a collective endeavour, why is something like that not the standard way of doing research?

Am I missing something?

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    Quick remark: The annotations of one researcher are often not useful for other researchers. Papers are frequently read with a particular question in mind, and the annotations will reflect how this question is answered in the paper (or is not answered). The next researcher may have a different question in mind, and hence may not find the first annotations useful. – DCTLib Sep 16 '20 at 5:50
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    I feel like how to order/use the annotation data is a "next question". The current is more like, are we throwing away all that information? – josePereiro Sep 16 '20 at 6:03
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    Yes, it's thrown away, and no, that's not a problem. – Anonymous Physicist Sep 16 '20 at 7:07
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    I don't see what use anyone else could have for my frequent "???" and "google this" comments in the margins of papers... – astronat Sep 16 '20 at 7:17
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    Well, I think data is always valuable. Even when you add "???" or just highlight a sentence you do it for a reason, e.g. you are pointing a focus of attention. It could be use to improve findability, or link related topics. I don't believe that all the work people do while read and analyse a paper is rubbish. – josePereiro Sep 16 '20 at 7:31

I was recently introduced to this site: hypothes.is (I have no affiliation). In essence, any PDF with a URL when opened with their layer allows you to see comments and highlights from anyone else who has chosen to use it, or sub-groups you can join or arrange.

I have not seen anyone in academia use it, but perhaps you could start. It does seem like it could be useful for a small group of people who want to understand a paper.


My impression from reading the comments section of papers that do allow comments, especially those on any topic of broader interest, is that, like most content on the internet, it's mostly junk. I'd expect the same of other types of annotation.

Therefore, you would need to design a whole platform around people not only providing their annotations, but also rating the annotations of everyone else. There has to be enough good content there to motivate people to keep the quality level high. There need to be enough people interested in curating any specific paper or the junk level goes up and the usefulness goes down.

Using StackExchange as a model, in particular my experience on the scientific stacks here, there are not enough people interested in a specific academic topic to curate properly. The curators are a tiny minority, so this would only even have a chance of working for papers that are very popular, and those tend to be least in need of annotation because they produce other types of content: editorials/comments posted in journal, posts on Twitter, etc.

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    Also, guaranteed that, where applicable, half of the comments are going to be something like "Is the n big enough?" without any sort of mathematical consideration. – Azor Ahai -him- Sep 16 '20 at 21:00

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